By Peter J. Smith

IVFLEICESTER, England, August 10, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A British hospital has launched a probe into the death of a British woman, who passed away on Monday from surgical complications resulting from an egg harvesting operation during her in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. The woman apparently suffered massive internal bleeding after the needle used to extract her eggs punctured one of the major arteries around her ovaries.

According to The Sun, a British news journal, a spokesman for the Leicester Royal Infirmary confirmed: “A woman patient died on the gynecology ward after undergoing IVF in the Assisted Conception Unit. The circumstances of her death are the subject of an investigation and details will be passed to the coroner.”

The woman, whose identity remains anonymous per request of her family, last week underwent the IVF procedure at the hospital, and was released after treatment. Later she was rushed back to the hospital and died Monday after internally bleeding to death.

A member of the hospital’s staff told The Sun: “The woman had IVF egg retrieval last week. Some complication occurred which led to severe bleeding. She was admitted to a ward with renal complications and died on Monday.”

“It’s tragic. I’ve never heard of a death occurring after this procedure,” said Dr Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society according to The Sun. “The needle probably punctured a large blood vessel in or around the ovaries. This would cause very severe bleeding.”

During egg extraction procedures, doctors insert a needle into a woman’s ovary through the side of the vagina, with the help of ultrasound imaging. Patients are usually discharged the same day, but if internal bleeding is not detected, massive complications may result.

The recent British woman’s death has IVF defenders very quick to point out that women undergoing the procedure very rarely experience death. The main cause of death linked to IVF is a syndrome called ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), which some claim affects up to 6 per cent of women and is caused by an adverse reaction to IVF drugs. In the United Kingdom, there are at least 5 recorded deaths from these drugs, and in the United States at least 25 deaths, according to the Family Research Council.

According to the Times Online, last year’s IVF victim was Temilola Akinbolagbe, 33, from Plumstead, south London, who died of a heart attack following IVF treatment at King’s College Hospital. Doctors revealed that her death was brought about by OHSS through an abnormal reaction to the hormonal drugs used to promote egg growth.

Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: “The BFS is sorry to hear of this tragic death and our sympathy is extended to the family. Worldwide more than three million babies have been born as a result of IVF. In the UK over 30,000 women receive IVF treatment each year and more than 10,000 children are born as a result. The procedures used in clinics are very safe and serious complications for patients are extremely rare.”

IVF procedures have recently drawn the attention of both pro-family, pro-woman, and some radical feminist groups, since many scientists have pushed for human cloning for embryonic stem-cell research. This procedure would create a demand for women to donate their eggs, or, as more recent news has suggested, to sell them, and could lead to a large increase in complications already recorded from IVF treatment.