Pregnancy References from Death of A Princess

St. Martins Press

Concrete evidence is more difficult to come by. There was a document, purportedly a confidential letter addressed by Dr. Pierre Coriat, head of anesthesiology at Piti Salpetriere, to Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, stating that Diana was nine to ten weeks pregnant. A photocopy, of this letter circulated around the editorial offices of several French publications. But the document, apparently of dubious authenticity, was denounced as a fake by both the Interior Ministry and the hospital. Consequently, no French news outlet ever published it.

But there were allusions to a possible pregnancy in the mainstream press. Time magazine, in its edition of September 22, 1997, stated that a SAMU doctor claimed to have been told by a colleague, who treated Diana in the tunnel, that she had made a rubbing gesture on her belly and informed him that she was "six weeks pregnant." Though the magazine had carefully couched this second-hand anecdote in a paragraph "on lies, conspiracy theories and outrageous tales," the passage was taken out of context and widely misquoted as 'proof" that Diana was pregnant . In fact, Time had merely relayed what a reporter was told by the second SAMU doctor; there was no way of knowing if he, or his anonymous colleague, was accurately quoting the Princess' words. Given the conflicting accounts about whether she even spoke at all after the accident, this doctor's story does not seem entirely convincing.

Also under the heading of second-hand accounts, a known and respected French journalist related to the authors the following story: a physician he knows personally, who works Pitie Salpetriere, told him that blood tests taken upon Diana's arrival showed she was indeed pregnant.. This physician, who identified his source as one of the doctors who operated on the Princess, then said that when he looked in Diana's medical dossier several days after her death, all the test results had been removed. The journalist was unable to corroborate the story and therefore did not report it. His medical source, who may or may not be telling the truth, refused to be interviewed for this book Thus there is no way of verifying this potentially explosive account.

But it is possible to examine the extent to which it may be considered plausible. It is necessary to know, first of all, whether doctors would have drawn blood and tested for pregnancy while fighting desperately for a trauma victim's life. The answer to the first half of that question is yes: they would systematically have taken blood samples in order to identify the blood type (for transfusion purposes) and measure the degree of hemorrhaging with an NFS test that counts the different kinds of blood cells. In most cases, other tests would normally be done, for example, to evaluate the coagulability of the blood, measure the level of electrolytes in the blood serum. and, for women of childbearing age, a Beta-HCG test for pregnancy.

In the U.S., according to Dr. David Wasserman, an experienced American emergency room physician, the Beta-HCG would be pretty standard in a case like Diana's. ''The doctors would want to know if a patient was pregnant or not," says Wasserman. "It wouldn't stop them from giving her life-saving treatment, but it would stop them from doing elective procedures that might harm the fetus."

According to a high-ranking French specialist in emergency medicine, obliged to speak anonymously because of the medical secrecy required by French law, it would be "reasonable and rational," though not obligatory, for French physicians to do the Beta-HCG. He stresses, though, that for "an emergency doctor with a medical catastrophe on his hands, his primary concern would not be to know if the woman was pregnant or not."

This French specialist, however, notes that another standard, obligatory, measure could reveal the presence of a fetus. In addition to a brain scan and an X ray of the thoracic region, he says, the emergency room doctors would necessarily have done a sonogram. This technique, which examines internal organs via the reflection of ultrasonic waves, would be performed primarily to identify lesions and check the accumulation of blood in bodily cavities. But, as any woman who has been through prenatal care in a modern facility in the past two decades knows, a sonogram will also produce the recognizable image of the fetus, which the head and folded up body clearly visible even to the layman. (Though a fetus younger than three weeks could only be detected by a specialist.)

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