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Failed Sterilisation and Litigation

Failed Sterilisation and Litigation

With around 50,000 female sterilisations performed in the UK every year, the procedure is considered both a permanent and effective method of female contraception. Even so, occasionally there are times when medical professionals make mistakes, and litigation ensues.

Failed Sterilisation Common Reasons For Litigation

There are a number of reasons why it may be possible to make a medical negligence claim regarding a failed sterilisation, the most common of which include:-

1. The Patient was Pregnant at the Time of Sterilisation
Before a sterilisation procedure, medical staff should take every precaution to ensure the patient is not pregnant. This includes ascertaining the patient's last menstrual cycle and carrying out a pregnancy test. If there is a failure to do so and the patient is pregnant at the time of the procedure, there is a very high risk the pregnancy will become ectopic. This is where the fertilised egg implants itself outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube) and must subsequently be removed. If left untreated an ectopic pregnancy can rupture the fallopian tube, something which can be fatal.

2. Inadequate Counselling
Before signing a consent form for the sterilisation procedure, a patient must be given adequate counselling. This gives the patient an opportunity to talk about their decision with a medical professional, during which the following topics should be discussed:-

  • Alternative methods of contraception;
  • The nature of the operation;
  • Failure rates (around 1:200);
  • The permanency of the operation;
  • Risks;
  • The condition of the patient, both physically and psychologically;
  • The possible feeling of regret after the procedure;
  • Contraception, which should be taken both before and after the operation.

If there is a case of inadequate counselling, it can be argued that the patient agreed to the operation without all the necessary information, meaning there was a failure to achieve proper informed consent.

3. Failure of Sterilisation Procedure
Sterilisation can fail in the long-term, whereby a woman's fallopian tubes naturally rejoin (known as recanalisation). There is little that can be done to prevent this from happening, as it is impossible to predict which women will experience it.

However, sterilisation can also fail in the short-term, something which can often be attributed to operator error. Indeed, if the surgeon does not perform the operation with sufficient skill and care (ie. successfully occluding the fallopian tubes and taking measures to ensure this has been done correctly) then a woman will remain fertile. This is likely to result in an unwanted pregnancy, as a woman will go on to have unprotected sexual relations, believing she is unable to conceive.

4. Injury During the Procedure
A patient may be inadvertently injured during the operation, which most commonly involves the puncture of blood vessels and bowel perforation. At particular risk are women who are obese, thin, as well as those who have lower abdominal scars.

Failed Sterilisation and Medical Negligence

If you have undergone a sterilisation and have experienced any of the events described above, then you may want to discuss your treatment with a legal expert. A medical negligence solicitor will be able to assess your case and suggest whether or not you have been the victim of sub-standard medical care. If so, they could help you make a claim. If successful, you will be awarded compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result, as well as for general damages such as a loss of earnings or additional medical treatment.

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Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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