A Whitehorse woman has been awarded $60,000 in damages after a birth control device was unknowingly left inside her for more than 20 years.
Chrystal Tupper, now 54 years old, was fitted with an intrauterine device for birth control in 1985, shortly after giving birth.
A year later she decided to have the copper device removed, only to discover she was pregnant again.
At that point Tupper was seen by two doctors, Dr. Roger Mitchell and Dr. Gerald Doersam. She had an abortion for health reasons and asked for a tubal ligation as well as the removal of the IUD.
During those procedures, neither doctor found the device. Each assumed it had been removed in some other way, Justice Gerard C. Hawco wrote in his decision.
“As far as Ms. Tupper was aware, her IUD had been removed. Certainly, no one told her that it had not been removed,” the judge said.
“What is odd, however, is that in none of the medical reports or notes entered as evidence at the trial, is there any mention of anyone actually seeing the IUD or noting that it had been removed. Neither did anyone note that it had not been seen. There was simply nothing said by anyone to anyone about the IUD.”
Hawco also notes that no X-ray was done to confirm that the device was actually gone.
“In my respectful view, the standard duty of care at the time required that if the IUD was neither visible nor accounted for, an X-ray ought to have been used to confirm that the IUD was not within the plaintiff’s pelvic area. No discussion at all seems to have taken place between Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Doersam,” he said.
For 20 years Tupper experienced pain and a variety of other symptoms.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the IUD was discovered during another surgery and removed. It had migrated away from the uterus.
Since having the device removed she is doing much better, the judge noted.
In the decision he found that both Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Doersam were negligent in failing to ensure Tupper’s IUD was not within her body at the conclusion of the abortion and the tubal ligation procedures.
“The plaintiff suffered numerous gynecological problems over the 20 years following the operation to remove her IUD. Not all of them were caused by the failure to remove the IUD, but many of them were,” he said.
Dr. Michelle Belanger, a gynecologist called by Tupper, reported to the court that “‘missing IUDs’ must be accounted for, because of the possibility of an intra-abdominal IUD. Copper IUDs are known to cause an intense inflammatory response, which can lead to scarring, pain and even perforations of the hollow organs such as the bladder or bowel, if they are involved. Because of these potential complications, abdominal IUDs require prompt surgical removal.”
On top of the $60,000 in damages, Tupper was also awarded about $5,000 in special damages for medical costs. Her legal bills are also covered.
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