Killing Teen Women With Better Medicine--RU-486


Pregnant teen's death under investigation
East Bay woman had taken RU-486, according to father
Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2003
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The Alameda County coroner's office is investigating the case of an 18- year-old East Bay woman who died Wednesday, days after reportedly taking the abortion pill RU-486.

The victim's father told The Chronicle that his 18-year-old daughter had gotten a prescription for RU-486 at a Planned Parenthood office in Hayward on Sept. 10 to end her seven-week pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood issued a statement Thursday night that it was working with the young woman's family to look into the cause of death.

"A patient who recently sought health care services at a Planned Parenthood health care center died yesterday at a hospital in Pleasanton," said Dian Harrison, chief executive officer and president of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate. "The cause of death is unknown at this time. . . . We extend our deepest sympathy to the family. We wish them strength and support in this tough time."

Monty Patterson said his daughter Holly Patterson had visited Planned Parenthood in Hayward last Wednesday and on Saturday had begun taking drugs prescribed to end her pregnancy. Patterson's daughter lived with him in Livermore and did not tell him about the pregnancy, he said.

"On Sunday, she was crying and crying, and she told me she was having cramps, that she had a bad period," said Patterson, a home builder who said he had learned of the pregnancy only hours before his daughter died.

Between Sunday and Wednesday, Holly Patterson was bleeding severely, in acute pain and unable to walk, her father said. Her boyfriend rushed her late Sunday to Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton, Patterson said. She was given painkillers and released, Patterson said.

"She went back into the hospital in the middle of the night Wednesday, and she died at 2 p.m.," Patterson said. "The doctor told me that she hadn't aborted all of the fetus, and she had fragments left in her, and she had a massive systemic infection and went into septic shock."

The Alameda County coroner's office confirmed it was investigating Patterson's death and had not yet established the cause of death. A coroner's spokesman said Patterson had died at 1:53 p.m. at Valley Care Medical Center.

A hospital spokesperson did not return calls.

RU-486, or mifepristone, has been available in France since 1988 and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September, 2000. It was approved to end early pregnancy, of 49 days (7 weeks) or less, as an alternative to surgical abortions.

The abortion pill is considered successful when bleeding and cramping occur.

Last year, the Washington Times reported that the deaths of two women who took RU-486 had prompted the FDA to issue warning letters to physicians.

Three women who took RU-486 later suffered bleeding caused by a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, the Washington Times reported. One woman died from a hemorrhage. Two other women suffered severe systemic bacterial infections after taking the drugs, and one died.

The FDA said at the time that it was "unknown whether there is a causal relationship between any of these events and the use of RU-486."

Planned Parenthood says on its Web site that the most common side effects reported by women using RU-486 for early abortion are "similar to those of a spontaneous miscarriage: uterine cramps, bleeding, nausea and fatigue. Mifepristone is as safe as aspiration abortion; additionally, it is a completely noninvasive procedure and does not require anesthesia."

A dose of mifepristone is taken under the guidance of a clinician, according to the organization's Web site. "In a few days she uses the second medication, misoprostol. The pregnancy usually ends within four hours after taking the misoprostol. The pre-embryo or embryo and other products of conception that develop during pregnancy are passed out through the vagina. Complete abortion will occur in 96 to 97 percent of women receiving this regimen."

Statistics mean little to Monty Patterson. On Thursday night, Patterson, 49,

said he was doing the unthinkable: planning his daughter's funeral.

"She was like an angel to me," he said, fighting back tears. "She was working, earning money, planning to go to college. She turned 18 on August 29. She had a new car, a red Honda Civic which now sits in the driveway."

He said he regretted his daughter couldn't tell him what she was going through.

"What I want to do now is tell parents to communicate with your children," he said. "Make sure they know you are there for them, no matter what. My daughter wanted to keep this a secret. She suffered in silence."

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