Roughly ten years ago, a woman decided that she didn’t want to have any more children and elected to have a tubal ligation. She went to a doctor and the procedure was performed. While assembling information prior to the surgery, the woman told the doctor that she had had her appendix removed years earlier, and she believed that one of her fallopian tubes was removed at that time.

The doctor checked during the procedure, and found what he believed to be evidence of the appendectomy. The information was consistent with what he had been told, so he took care of the other tube.

Five years later, the woman was pregnant. Evidently the tube that was thought to have been removed was intact. The doctor was sued.

An Australian court found the doctor liable, and has ordered him to pay for the child’s care until he turns eighteen.

Now, before we get into the observations, here are some links for the story:

Article covering the decision

Response of the medical community to the decision

The court case

Initially I had problems with this decision, and I have talked to enough people about it to tell you that I’ve decided my difficulty was with the judgment. At the foundation of my thoughts is the concept that this sounds like it is being treated as a child care/custody case and not a malpractice suit.

In reviewing the material, it is apparent the woman planted thoughts in the doctor’s mind, ones he should never have accepted without question. He made the mistake of accepting them as fact without continuing with proper technique or treatment. Simple summary, the surface details show negligence in the actions of the doctor. And that is, regardless of your application of any degrees of severity to the word, malpractice.

I know emotions run strong when it comes to children and babies… and I don’t want to focus on that part for too long. It was the part that grabbed my attention initially, but I do believe that in the end there isn’t that much room for complaining as far as those involved in the case. The doctor was wrong, and the court ruled in favor of the woman. There are two other things that came up in my research though, and I think they present potentially disturbing long-term impacts.

First, I e-mailed a friend of mine that is a doctor. His response essentially said that the doctor should have been more thorough. No excuse for not. So, despite any claims going back and forth about the woman having said it was removed, or whether or not he was truly negligent, it all comes back to responsibility. This is what he should have done, steps he should have taken, procedures he should have followed, and he didn’t.

Second, I was speaking with one woman about this, and she said there are interesting developments becoming issues in Australia. Evidently this case was big news over there. One example of the developments: If they are going to be liable in this way, and see their malpractice rates go crazy as a result, then some doctors aren’t going to prescribe birth control pills any more. Why? Because of situations such as when antibiotics can render some of the pills ineffective. None of the doctors want to be liable for a woman that gets pregnant while taking both, and a paperwork trail that leads back to their office.

When I was growing up we had this thing called responsibility. I’ve used the word already in referring to what the doctor needed to do. But in my experience, if you didn’t want to have a child there was only one foolproof way to make certain you didn’t. I find it very interesting how people refuse to blame their own actions for the conditions they live in. It was taught in physics class… every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Mind you, that’s a generalized set of observations spring-boarding off of this scenario. I’m absolutely not judging this woman for taking legal action when she attempted to take precautions, they didn’t work, and there is an obvious error involved on the part of the doctor. I admit, I am thousands upon thousands of miles away, reading about this story, so my ability to be steadfast and certain of everything involved is limited.

What I am saying is that nothing is guaranteed in this world, and here is an example for everyone else to learn from. Take nothing for granted, and accept responsibility for your actions… or lack thereof.

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In the early days of the In My Backpack web site, I was trying several different ways to present material.

My journal entries were referred to as “A Momentary Lapse…” for a period of time, which eventually transitioned to “Are you chewing gum?” for a bit. After a few restarts, modifications, and relaunches, the Now Playing area took over.

One of occasional segments—appearing perhaps ten times a year or so—was called Random Thoughts, which I described as…

Too long for “A Momentary Lapse…”… Not enough for a full article… Need to get them off my “ideas to work on” list…

This essay was originally created and presented as a Random Thoughts entry. I’m bringing it back as a From the Backpack offering because I’m curious about the content and the effort. But, worth noting, it may still seem a bit incomplete, needing more development, and may or may not have gone through some additional edits and re-writes beyond my usual finds when searching the archives.


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