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Negligence Alleged in Clinic Abortion Case

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Medical Board has alleged that an Albuquerque physician acted negligently when she performed an abortion last year that resulted in the patient’s transfer to a hospital.

The board began the investigation after pro-life groups filed complaints based on 911 calls for emergency transports from clinics to hospitals.

The board alleged in August that Dr. Shelley Sella performed a 35-week abortion last year in which a woman experienced a uterine rupture, prompting personnel at the Southwest Women’s Option clinic to call 911.

“The uterine rupture was caused by the excessive use of uterine stimulants,” according a notice of contemplated action posted Aug. 15 on the medical board’s website.

“The standard of care appropriate for the patient’s medical history, and the nature of the procedure, warranted that (Sella) should have performed the procedure at a hospital instead of a clinic,” the notice said. The patient had a prior history of cesarean delivery, it said.

Board records do not identify the patient or the outcome of her medical case.

An independent hearing officer held a closed hearing on Thursday to consider evidence in Sella’s case, said Lynn Hart, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Board.

“We’re looking at this case based on standard of care, not on the procedure being done,” Hart said in a phone interview Thursday. She declined to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical board has up to 90 days to hand down its decision in the case, she said. The board has the authority to suspend or revoke Sella’s state medical license.

Messages left for Sella and her attorney, Molly Schmidt-Nowara of Albuquerque, were not returned Thursday.

Uterine rupture, a break in the wall of the uterus, is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition for both the mother and infant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Uterine stimulants are medicines used to induce labor by increasing the strength and frequency of contractions.

Pro-life groups including Project Defending Life and Operation Rescue filed complaints with the medical board based on tapes of 911 calls involving 13 incidents dating back to 2008 that resulted in emergency transports from clinics to hospital.

Tara Shaver, a spokeswoman for Project Defending Life, said she filed 11 complaints with the medical board last year against physicians at Southwest Women’s Options based on the tapes.

Of those complaints, only Sella’s case has resulted in a notice of contemplated action against the physician, Shaver said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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