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A 26-year-old woman from Hadera died of internal bleeding yesterday, three days after undergoing a Caesarean section for her first child. The Health Ministry has appointed a committee to investigate her death.

The family of Fanata Maharatu accused Hadera's Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center of malpractice yesterday and demanded an autopsy to "determine the real cause of death."

"We don't understand how a simple operation could end in death," said her partner, Gadi Nabartu. Referring to over-the-counter pain medication, he said, "Fanata complained of stomach pains and they gave her Acamol."

Though internal bleeding is a known complication of Caesarean sections, it is rare, occurring in less than 0.5 percent of all such operations. It is also more common when the woman has had a previous C-section, which was not the case with Maharatu.

Maharatu was admitted to the hospital Thursday afternoon for a scheduled Caesarean, and her first child was born healthy. The mother was transferred to the maternity ward, where she was checked by the staff every two hours.

The hospital said that during the initial checks, Maharatu told the staff that although she was experiencing some pain - as expected after the operation - she otherwise felt fine. It said there were no signs of anything amiss.

At 4 A.M. Friday, Maharatu told her mother and a nurse that she was feeling all right aside from some pain and tiredness. At 5:30 A.M., she was found unconscious.

Maharatu was rushed to the operating room, where doctors discovered she was bleeding internally, and two senior surgeons operated on her. Her treatment also included blood transfusions and medication to assist clotting.

She was classified as being in serious condition and transferred to the intensive care unit, where she died before dawn yesterday.

"It is not clear to the hospital why her condition suddenly deteriorated, but this is being thoroughly investigated," Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center said in a statement.

Maharatu's family said Hillel Yaffeh had not honored its request for her to be transferred to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, but the Hadera hospital said that at the time the request was made - once she was already in intensive care - the transfer would have endangered her life.