Prescribing an IUD as Birth Control: When is it Medical Malpractice?
The use of birth control is an essential family planning tool for many individuals. The ability to control’s one fertility opens up many opportunities and provides more life choices for males and females. However, due to the nature of biology, women bear a significantly larger share of the burdens and difficulties that come with a still-developing child. As such, various forms of contraception and birth control have allowed women to take control of their future and lead a life that is dictated by their hopes, dreams, and goals.
One form of birth control that has become increasingly popular in recent years is that of an intrauterine device (IUD). These medical implements are marketed as a safe, effective, and convenient means of birth control. Commercials for these products may tout benefits including no need to take daily pills or manually maintain certain hormone levels. However, IUDs are not without their drawbacks and complications. In fact, an improperly inserted or defective IUD can cause permanent life-altering injuries.
What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small medical device or implement that is implanted directly into a woman’s uterus during a surgical procedure. They physical implement is a small, T-shaped plastic implement that contains hormones or is wrapped in copper. Hormonal IUDs work through the release of the hormone levonorgestrel and are typically good for 3 or five years. Copper IUDs use copper wire for contraceptive purposes and can last for up to 10 years. The physical device is attracted to a long string that is then routed through the cervix and through the vagina. This string can be used for removal and is also one means of determining whether the device is properly in place.
When properly designed and used, IUDs can be an effective form of birth control. However, when the devices are improperly inserted and when the woman is not properly educated by the physician regarding the IUD, severe injury can occur.
Risks and Problems Associated with IUDs
There are a number of risks associated with IUDs. Both the copper and hormonal IUD are known to cause menstrual problems in some women. For other women, the hormonal IUD may actually reduce cramps and bleeding. However, there are a number of potentially serious risks including perforation of organs.
If the device is improperly inserted or if it shifts, organ perforation can occur. Organ perforation occurs when the walls of the organ are penetrated by the device. Perforation is most common in the uterus. Symptoms of perforation include chills and fever, severe lower abdominal pain, bleeding, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, blood in stool, and other signs and symptoms. Irreversible organ damage can occur if the perforation is not treated promptly. Other risks presented by use of IUDs include:
- Severe pelvic and abdominal pain
- Internal bleeding
- Ovarian cysts
Other problems can arise through the use of an IUD whether the device is hormonal or copper-based.
FDA Review or Reported Problems with Essure IUD
In September 2015, after receiving complaints from many women, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement regarding its inquiry into Essure IUD placement and labeling. The complaints expressed to the FDA also had basis in previous clinical tests. Reported problems with the devices included:
- Abdominal pain (3,353 reports)
- Menstrual irregularities (1,408)
- Headache (1,383)
- Fatigue (966)
- Weight fluctuations (936)
- Device incompatibility due to allergy or other reasons (941)
- Migration (482)
- Unexpected operation of device (301)
- Breakage of device (259)
- Improper placement (133)
The review of data uncovered 11 death reports. Five of the deaths were fetal deaths after the woman became pregnant after the IUD was placed. Four adult deaths were associated with the devices. One death was due to uterine perforation during device placement. Another death was believed to have been caused by an air embolism during device removal surgery. The FDA has not taken any additional action on the product but has promised consumers that, “FDA will continue to monitor the safety of Essure to ensure it does not pose an increased risk to public health and that its benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”
Injured by an IUD and Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
If you or a loved one have suffered severe injury or death due to use of an IUD, the experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you. To schedule a free, confidential initial consultation call (215) 246-9000 or contact us online today.