The purpose of a tubal ligation medical procedure is to render a woman unable to become pregnant. However, there have been cases where a woman has become pregnant after undergoing this procedure. When this occurs there are questions as to whether a woman can sue her doctor for medical malpractice and how she is “harmed” if she gave birth to a healthy baby.
For the most part, society considers the birth of a child a positive experience. This is why many courts have traditionally barred lawsuits that seek damages for “wrongful birth” of a healthy baby. However, that has changed and many courts, including courts in New York, now allow lawsuits for wrongful birth.
States vary greatly when it comes to what damages are allowed in these types of cases. However there are many types of damages a woman can seek resulting from a wrongful pregnancy.
Cost of the Tubal Ligation
The most obvious form of damages is the cost of the procedure itself. The purpose of the procedure was to prevent pregnancy. However, a pregnancy occurred, which shows very clearly that the patient did not get what they paid for. Most courts allow for recovery for the cost of the initial procedure, including any ancillary costs. In the alternative, the patient may be able to recover costs associated with a second tubal ligation.
Cost to Terminate the Pregnancy
There are some states that allow a woman to recover for the cost of an abortion if she elects to terminate the pregnancy. The choice of whether to end the pregnancy is at the decision of the pregnant woman.
Cost of Childbirth
If the woman chooses to carry the child to term, the negligent doctor is likely to be held liable for medical expenses associated with the birth, including prenatal and postnatal care. If medical complications arise during prenatal and postnatal care, the doctor will also be liable for those expenses.
Reduced Abilities During Pregnancy
There are some states that consider a woman “disabled” while they are pregnant and will award damages accordingly. This amount is calculated by placing a value on the reduced quality of the woman’s life during pregnancy and awards the difference between that value and what the value the woman’s life would have been had the pregnancy not occurred.
Loss of Consortium
Pregnancy can also be a hardship on the pregnant woman’s spouse, and some states will compensate the spouse for loss of consortium and intimate companionship.
Some women may have a reduced income during pregnancy due to missed work. In many states a woman is allowed to recover the income she would have obtained has she not become pregnant. However, this does not include recovery for lost wages due to the obligation of the woman to raise the child.
Household activities may become more difficult for a pregnant woman. Such activities include cleaning and caring for children. In some states a woman can recover damages for hiring outside cleaning or childcare services.
Pain and Suffering
Tubal ligations can be very unpleasant. If the procedure fails, damages may be available for the pain and suffering the woman experienced due to the procedure and any subsequent procedure to rectify the defects of the first. Additionally, there are some states that allow a woman to recover for the pain and suffering associated with the pregnancy and delivery of the child. Should the woman become disfigured due to the birth, she may be able to recover damages for that as well.
An unexpected pregnancy after a tubal ligation may cause anxiety and mental distress. However, most states, a woman may not recover damages for the anxiety associated with raising a healthy child.
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