A mother was recently reported in the news for a wrongful pregnancy following an alleged sterilization, leading to the birth of a child with sickle cell disease. The Illinois mother is suing her doctor, claiming a flawed tubal ligation led to a pregnancy and the unexpected birth. Many doctors argue that sterilization is not always successful, however. Sickle cell disease can cause many complications, and it is considered a life-long challenge that can be worrisome to a family. Cynthia Williams, a 40-year-old mother, only had one ovary and thought she could not become pregnant again because of the tethering of the tube to her womb.
She reported immediately, after seeing the pregnancy test show positive, to have “lost it.” Williams was 12-years-old when she claims to have lost an ovary to the development and removal of a cyst. During this operation, doctors found out that she carried the sickle cell trait, and informed Williams of this condition. The man Williams eventually married turned out to also carry the trait after their second son was born with the disease. Williams claims it was at that point they decided to stop having children. Four years later, she became pregnant, even following the sterilization procedure.
Williams originally tried to take oral birth control pills, but soon found out that this method increased her blood pressure, so she sought a more permanent solution. This is when she decided to get her “tubes tied,” so she had a sterilization surgery in 2008. Six months later, she was staring at her baby in a sonogram. Kennadi, her fourth child, was born in 2010 with sickle cell disease. After that point, she claims life has been changed forever, for her and her family, leading to excess expenses and undue stress for the family.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that the most common form of sickle cell disease is the anemic form, which is a serious disorder where the body makes misshapen red blood cells that interrupt the natural flow and function of the circulatory system. Some patients with this disease have had strokes, leading to an incredibly decreased quality of life. These “sickle-shaped” cells also contain abnormal hemoglobin, and the irregular shape tends to cause blockage in blood vessels of the limbs or organs. This blocked blood-flow can cause pain and organ damage, including a higher risk of infection.
Williams, along with her husband, are now suing Byron Rosner, MD of Reproductive Health Associates for “wrongful pregnancy,” stating that he failed to perform an adequate operation of tubal ligation, resulting in this pregnancy, and the birth of an ill child.
The birth of a sickle cell infant was a shock to Williams, even more so following a permanent sterilization. According to medical records, William’s left tube was intact and structurally normal around the time of the birth. The plaintiffs are suing for damages for personal injury to Williams and the family, emotional distress and for lost wages, as well as extraordinary expenses, which they expect to incur from having another child.
The mother claims to love Kennadi, but it has simply become a life changing experience for everyone in the family. Williams went into congestive heart failure shortly following a caesarean delivery of the baby. She reportedly remained in intensive care for two weeks and required a nine-month leave from work. While she was in the hospital, she was unable to see her child.
Williams has recovered, but her child, now four years old, has a lifetime of health problems to cope with.
Tubal ligation is considered a permanent method of birth control, but between one and 10 out of 1,000 women become pregnant within 10 years following the procedure, reports the The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC.) For this reason alone, Williams had a difficult time finding representation for her case.
This suit is also the first of its kind in Illinois. The doctor’s attorney moved to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that the law does not allow parents to recover costs associated with raising a child with defects after an unsuccessful sterilization. The appellate court ruled February that the case will move forward.
Williams says she is always tired now from raising health-compromised children, stating that everyone in the family needs to expend themselves to care for each other. She claims this incident was not fair to them. Williams claims to absolutely love all her children, but people believe the 40-year-old woman is the four-year-old’s grandmother. Williams strongly believes the pain incurred with sickle cell disease following the birth of Kennadi could have been completely prevented if the sterilization procedure was successful.
By Lindsey Alexander