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Frustacis Sue Doctor, Clinic That Administered Fertility Drugs

October 9, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Patti Frustaci, who gave birth to America’s first septuplets, called the event a catastrophe as she and her husband filed a $2.2 million suit against the doctor and clinic that gave her fertility drugs.

″I cannot begin to put into words how painful it has been to lose four children,″ she said in a statement read by attorney Browne Greene. ″Each one was precious and unique, and their loss will be with us and with their sister and brothers for the rest of our lives.″

Mrs. Frustaci was unable to attend a news conference Tuesday announcing the filing of the suit because she has become a virtual prisoner to the three surviving septuplets who need constant medical attention, Greene said.

The suit by Patti and Sam Frustaci of Riverside alleges medical malpractice, four wrongful deaths, loss of earnings and of earning capacity as a result of overprescription of fertility drugs at Tyler Medical Clinic by Dr. Jaroslav Marik. It also claims Marik failed to use ultrasound monitoring from August to November 1984 when Mrs. Frustaci was taking the fertility drug Pergonal.

Ultrasound monitoring would have revealed the presence of multiple eggs in the ovaries and doctors could have avoided prescribing the second drug that releases the eggs for fertilization, Greene said.

Marik declined comment Tuesday on the lawsuit and specifically on the ultrasound allegation.

″I have never been served with anything. I don’t know exactly what the complaint is, so obviously I can’t comment,″ he said.

Greene, who specializes in personal injury cases, said he checked several other fertility clinics, and all used ultrasound.

″After talking to other doctors, we have come to believe that I was not treated as I should have been,″ Mrs. Frustaci said ″If I had, this catastrophe would never have occurred.″

The Superior Court suit filed Tuesday seeks at least $1 million in medical expenses already incurred, any future medical expenses, and $1.25 million in non-economic losses - $250,000 for each of the three surviving children, Patricia, Stephen and Richard, and the parents, Greene said.

California law limits medical malpractice awards to $250,000 for such non- economic losses as pain, suffering or embarrassment, but financial damages are not limited.

On May 21, six infants were born 12 weeks premature to Mrs. Frustaci at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. The seventh was stillborn.

Three babies died May 24, June 6 and June 9.

″The children face a lifetime of medical problems, necessitating expensive treatment and evaluation,″ Greene said. The babies’ known medical problems include optic nerve damage, hernias and chronic lung disease, as well as heart damage in the two boys, he said.

Mrs. Frustaci, an English teacher, also may have suffered lifelong injuries, the attorney said.

The multiple births were Mrs. Frustaci’s second pregnancy through treatment at the Tyler Clinic in West Los Angeles. Her first pregnancy resulted in the birth of Joseph Frustaci, now 18 months old.

Greene said the treatment she received prior to Joseph’s birth was identical to the treatment that preceded the multiple birth.

Despite the experience, Mrs. Frustaci said she and her husband still believe in fertility treatment.

″I have heard so much about couples who are now hesitant to try fertility drugs,″ she said. ″I want to say to these couples that what happened to us is the exception, and it need not happen to others.″

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