One patient from Northern Ireland will remember her caesarean section for a long time. During the procedure, a medical procedure took place that turned her whole life upside down. Without her consent, the doctor sterilized her.
During an emergency cesarean section in September 2021, gynecologist Dr. David Smith performed a sterilization procedure (tubal ligation) on the patient. Unfortunately, he did this to her without her knowledge or consent. At that time, the doctor worked at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, Northern Ireland. He enjoyed an impeccable reputation. Importantly, he knew the injured woman very well. He had supervised her previous pregnancies and births (he supervised 11 births in total). There were no complaints about him before.
How did the doctor explain the decision to sterilize the woman?
Dr. David Smith’s case was referred to the medical board. At the end of November 2023, the medic appeared before the Medical Practitioners Court Service (MPTS). During interrogation, he confessed that the sterilized patient had considered the possibility of tubal ligation, but had never consented to it. She also did not clearly declare that she wanted to undergo such a procedure. During an emergency cesarean section, the gynecologist blocked the patient’s fallopian tubes, impairing their functioning. He used a method that gives a lasting but reversible effect.
Doctor David Smith admitted that his actions violated human reproductive rights and had no medical justification (they did not save the patient’s life). As he noted, the actions he took resulted from a gross “lapse in judgment.” The gynecologist expressed sincere regret and apologized to the injured party for his mistake.
The woman also gave explanations before the medical commission. She confessed that the sterilization procedure turned her life upside down. “I cannot understand that this happened to me and without my consent. “I had many conversations with doctors to find out how to reverse the effects of the procedure,” she said in a statement. Ultimately, doctors were able to restore normal function of the fallopian tubes.
According to experts, Dr. Smith did not treat his patient as an independent adult and did not respect her right to privacy and decision-making, and his actions significantly deviated from accepted standards. The gynecologist withdrew from medical practice. He gave up his license and has no intention of returning to work.
Tubal ligation – what is this method?
Tubal ligation involves destroying the continuity of these organs. As a result, sperm are unable to reach the egg and fertilization becomes impossible. However, there are no changes in ovulation itself. The woman is still menstruating. The procedure is considered one of the most effective contraceptive methods. It should be emphasized, however, that its effects are difficult to reverse, although not impossible. Much depends on how the entire procedure is carried out.
Tubal ligation in Poland
It is worth emphasizing that the case of the patient from Northern Ireland is not an isolated one. A very similar situation also occurred on the Vistula River. In 2009, Polish public opinion was shocked by the case of a mother who was sterilized without her knowledge or consent. The woman had her fallopian tubes cut during a cesarean section. As a result, she lost the possibility of getting pregnant again. She was under anesthesia at the time of the procedure.
The case went to trial. The doctor who performed the sterilization was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence. It should be emphasized that this type of procedure can only be performed to save a life. Tubal ligation solely at the patient’s request is illegal in Poland.