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Death of Pregnant Teen With Cancer Fuels Abortion Controversy

Everyday Health | 08-23-2012

A pregnant 16-year-old who was denied chemotherapy because of her country’s anti-abortion laws died Friday after complications from leukemia.

The teen, whose name has remained unpublished, became the focus of an international debate last month when she was admitted to Semma Hospital in the Dominican Republic but had to wait 20 days for treatment while officials considered the risks to her life without chemo versus the risks to her baby’s life with chemo. Doctors were reluctant to administer the drugs for fear of terminating her then seven-week pregnancy and violating Article 37 of the Dominican constitution, which states that “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death.”

After reviewing the girl’s case with the Dominican Ministry of Health, the Dominican Medical College, and the National Bioethics Commission, hospital representatives ruled that she could begin chemotherapy on July 24 — nearly three weeks after her arrival at Semma. During that time, her condition worsened. When she finally got the treatment, it was too late: Her body didn’t respond to the drugs and later rejected a blood transfusion. Last week, she had a miscarriage and went into cardiac arrest.

“They have killed me, I’m dead, dead. I’m nothing,” Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother, told CNN. “She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live. Rosa has died. Let the world know that Rosa is dead.”


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