Legally Speaking: Tubal ligation failure results in wrongful pregnancy claim
Tubal ligation failure results in wrongful pregnancy claim
A 39-year-old Illinois woman went to her gynecologist in 2008 for a tubal ligation. One of her 3 children had sickle cell disease and she did not want to have another child with the disease. She had experienced complications from other forms of birth control.
The patient’s history included 2 cesarean deliveries and, according to her statement, she had had a left salpingo-oophorectomy at a young age. An ultrasound done in 2004, however, indicated that the woman’s right ovary had been surgically removed and that a cystic interface had been identified on the left ovary at that time.
The patient had been scheduled for a tubal ligation 3 years earlier, but it was not performed because she could not be intubated. Her gynecologist then recommended and performed a mini-laparotomy and tubal ligation under spinal anesthesia. During the operation the gynecologist identified a Fallopian tube and ovary on the right side, but because of a large amount of adhesions on the left side, he could not visualize a left Fallopian tube or ovary. A tubal ligation was performed on the right side, but the physician did not remove all the adhesions on the left side because of the patient’s representation that she had a left salpingo-oophorectomy.
Six months later, the woman had a positive pregnancy test and she later gave birth by cesarean to a child who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease. The physician who performed the cesarean did not find an ovary on the right side, but did find a tube that was shortened and wrapped around itself. He also took down the adhesions on the left side and found an intact left Fallopian tube and ovary. He ligated both tubes.
The patient had postoperative complications including a lung infection with surgical drainage, development of shingles, and post-herpetic neuralgia. She sued the gynecologist who performed the mini-laparotomy and alleged negligence in failing to properly evaluate her prior to the procedure, failing to actually perform a ligation on the right side, and failing to remove the left-side adhesions and discover the intact tube and ovary, resulting in the pregnancy.
The physician claimed that further evaluation would not have provided any new information and that the risks of taking down the adhesions outweighed the potential benefits.
A defense verdict was returned.
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