The number of individuals who rely on some form of artificial contraception for family planning is increasing yearly. Although most forms of birth control are safe and effective, a failure on the part of a gynecologist to take into account the specific needs of a woman when prescribing a birth control devise can lead to serious complications and even death.
One of the most popular methods of birth control is the intrauterine device (IUD). The main advantages of an IUD include its long-term effectiveness, the lack of systemic metabolic effects, and the fact that they are not coitally related. However, the effectiveness of the IUD is highly dependent on the skill of the physician inserting it. The hazards associated with the use of an IUD include failure, pregnancy, expulsion, bleeding, pain, uterine perforation, and missing strings.
Liability arising from the use of an IUD is primarily based on the breach of the duty to warn patients of the associated hazards. Although most cases have been directed towards IUD manufacturers, the physician is a learned intermediary who has a duty to be aware of all qualities and characteristics of the product. He or she must inform the patient of those facts that he feels are necessary for the patient to know. If the physician fails to inform the patient, he may be found liable for injuries sustained by the patient. In addition, the physician may also be held liable if he or she fails to warn the patient of the dangers of continuing a pregnancy with an IUD in place.
A second common basis for medical malpractice actions arising from the use of an IUD is the failure to locate and remove the device. These cases generally arise when the physician is unable to locate the UID, usually after it has perforated the uterus, and he or she fails to appraise the patient and treat her properly. A “failure to remove” case can also occur when a second IUD is inserted without removal of the one already in place.
The improper insertion of an IUD can lead to a medical malpractice action. It is generally considered good medical practice to rule out pregnancy prior to inserting an IUD because pregnancy is an absolute contraindication to its insertion.