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Emails Show UNM backtracking on cause of death for Keisha Atkins

Abortion On Trial has obtained subpoenaed correspondence between staff members at UNM who were discussing Keisha Atkins' cause of death.

Emails between numerous physicians at UNM and staff of their Office of Medical Investigators show that OMI released an incomplete, if not entirely false, cause of death. It was not until the doctors who treated Keisha and the highly regarded radiologist who read her scans protested and insisted that she was diagnosed with a septic abortion that OMI staff eventually agreed their cause of death was not entirely accurate.

The final operative report for Keisha, written by Dr. Lisa Hoffler, listed septic abortion as Keisha's diagnosis. But Keisha's cause of death according to the Medical Investigator, Lauren Dvorscak, was listed as Pulmonary Thromboembolism due to pregnancy which, according to the outdated study sourced, could go unseen on scans 10% of the time. Upon seeing that the TSICU intensivist who treated Keisha in the hospital, D. Trenton Wray, emailed Dr. Gary Hatch, the highly regarded radiologist who read Keisha's scans, recalling that they found no P.E. present on Keisha's scans. He stated that "Everything about her course was consistent with septic abortion-> refractory septic cardiomyopathy-> death." Dr. Wray then said "I have to admit, I was floored by her cause of death being a massive PE"

Dr. Hatch replied and agreed "There was no PE present at the time of the scan. Period." He went on to question the cause of death saying "The autopsy diagnosis doesn't make sense to me. Who did the autopsy?" He then emailed Dr. Dvorscak asking her to review the case saying he reviewed Keisha's scans again and "There just simply isn't PE."

Dvorscak defensively replied saying she had "reviewed the case a number of times" and she does "agree that everything makes sense for sepsis." She said she was "not denying she (Keisha) was septic and going through a septic abortion." But claims that in addition to Keisha's sepsis she had "evidence on organizing PEs" Dvorscak admitted to not performing the necessary tests to determine where those organizing PEs were coming from and said "I don't know where they came from exactly, and yes, I wish a leg cutdown was performed." She also admitted some fault by apologizing for using an outdated study as her source.

Dr. Hatch continued his line of questioning and requested to know if Dr. Dvorscak could determine when, if ever, Keisha did actually develop PE but Dvorscak replied unable to accommodate. "Even if I had the time nailed down more, I'm not sure what that would tell me." she said "I think the scenario you outlined is entirely plausible, that everything may have been sort of a sequence from her underlying infection." Dvorscak finished her email with a questionable offer stating "Please let me know if I can further muddy the waters in attempt to clarify things for you in understanding this one."

Dr. Hatch forwarded the conversation back to Dr. Trenton Wray and said "I'm not sure why Lauren worded things the way she did, but if you read below you'll see she agrees in the plausibility of the scenario you put forward." Dr. Wray then took all the events and conclusions back to Dr. Lisa Hoffler to discuss with the Atkins family.

At one point even Dvorscak's boss spoke up on the confusion and stated "Unfortunately the article doesn't reflect what I said. I told her the case was complex and that septic abortion played a role. She asked if the death was pregnancy related or abortion related and I told her it was both. I told her about how a septic uterus can foster venous thrombosis. I told her the death certificate only has an area for whether a death is related to pregnancy but doesn't have an area to indicate that a death is abortion related."

It is still not clear exactly why OMI failed to include any mention of septic abortion in Keisha's cause of death when they themselves admit that if she did develop a post scan PE it was likely due to her sepsis. But it is clear that UNM has backtracked on their initial claims. Dvorscak's lack of transparency regarding her own failures in citing out to date studies makes one question how trustworthy UNM can really be. But for the public who has been asking what Keisha died from, we have that answer now.

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