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Pregnant Dominican girl dies as abortion ban delays leukemia treatment

Published time: August 18, 2012 17:46
Edited time: August 18, 2012 21:46
Reuters / Edgard Garrido

Reuters / Edgard Garrido

The mother of a Dominican teenage girl is accusing doctors of not putting her daughter’s health first after the girl died when her body failed to respond to chemotherapy. The treatment was delayed over fears it would abort the girl’s pregnancy.

­The 16-year-old girl, whose name has not been officially disclosed, grabbed the world’s attention after doctors dragged out her leukemia treatment because of an abortion ban provided by the Dominican Republic’s Constitution.

The Constitution states “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death,” which is interpreted quite straightforwardly in courts.

Diagnosed with acute leukemia, the girl was admitted to Semma Hospital in Santo Domingo, but had to wait some 20 days for treatment – doctors feared beginning aggressive chemotherapy as radiation could have aborted the pregnancy. Finally, they gave in Tuesday, public pressure increasing.

Friday, the girl died.

As a blood transfusion began Thursday, the teen’s body rejected it and failed to respond to the chemotherapy altogether, Dr. Antonio Cabrera, the legal representative for the hospital, told CNN.

Her condition rapidly worsening, the girl suffered a miscarriage Friday morning. Cardiac arrest followed. Attempts to revive the girl having failed, the official reason for her death was recorded as complications from her disease.

"They have killed me, I'm dead, dead. I'm nothing," says Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother. "She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live."

The incident stirred controversy and heated discussion with the Catholic Church and the Dominican public. Given the strict abortion rules, Hernandez had to apply both to the doctors and the government for an exception to be made for her daughter.

"My daughter's life is first. I know that [abortion] is a sin and that it goes against the law … but my daughter's health is first," Hernandez said.

At the moment of her the death, the fetus was 10-13 weeks old, according to various media.

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