ULYANOVSK (Russia) • It was supposed to be a routine laparoscopic procedure to remove her ovarian cysts, but Ms Ekaterina Fedyaeva ended up being embalmed alive.
Ms Fedyaeva, 28, underwent the procedure last month at a hospital in Ulyanovsk, a city in western Russia, reported RT, a Russian government-owned television network.
During the operation, medical staff made an irreparable error: Instead of administering saline solution, the staff mistakenly gave Ms Fedyaeva formalin, a solution that contains formaldehyde, which is used to preserve bodies, said Russia's state-controlled news agency Tass. The medical team tried to wash Ms Fedyaeva's abdominal cavity, but it was too late.
Her mother-in-law Valentina Fedyaeva told RT that after the surgery, Ms Fedyaeva told her mother, "Mum, I'm dying", but her mother thought she was just complaining. Then her organs started to fail, according to reports, and she was connected to machines to help keep her alive.
Ms Fedyaeva died last Thursday, reported Tass.
Mr Rashid Abdullov, Minister of Health, Family and Social Well-being for the Ulyanovsk region, called the death "a terrible tragedy".
Effects of formalin
WHAT IS FORMALIN?
Formalin is a toxic, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water. Formaldehyde is commonly used in embalming fluid.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF FORMALIN EXPOSURE?
Formalin and formaldehyde are considered toxic when inhaled or swallowed, or when high concentrations of the chemical comes into contact with the skin.
Breathing its vapour may cause burning sensations in the eyes and nose, a sore throat, asthma and other symptoms. Skin contact with formaldehyde can cause rashes and allergic reactions.
Serious inhalation or ingestion can cause severe pain with inflammation, ulceration and necrosis of the mucous membranes, which line almost every internal organ, according to BIMC Hospital in Bali, Indonesia. This could result in nausea, vomiting of blood, diarrhoea, blood in the urine, circulatory failure and death.
He wrote on Twitter: "My deepest condolences to the family, relatives of Ekaterina Fedyaeva... We will provide all the necessary aid to the family. Those responsible for the tragedy have been brought to liability and the investigative agencies continue to work."
It is still unclear exactly how the error happened, but Mr Abdullov said medical staff neglected to read the label on the lethal chemical before administering it to Ms Fedyaeva during the surgery.
Russia's Federal Medical-Biological Agency confirmed that Ms Fedyaeva was transported in critical condition from the hospital in Ulyanovsk to the A.I. Burnazyan Federal Medical and Biophysical Centre in Moscow, where doctors and nurses tried to save her, according to RT.
Ms Fedyaeva briefly regained consciousness, though she was suffering multiple organ failure and had machines working for her lungs and kidneys. Ms Fedyaeva's mother-in-law told RT that the young woman opened her eyes and whispered to them - a moment she said gave them hope. But her body could not clear the poison.
Family members and friends described Ms Fedyaeva as a "sweet and tender" young woman.
Ulyanovsk Governor Sergey Morozov and the local authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the incident and, on the governor's orders, the head doctor at the hospital in Ulyanovsk and other medical staff involved in the surgery have been dismissed.
If criminally charged and convicted, the medical staff could be jailed.