Malpractice in Female Sterilization
By far, the most common basis for sterilization-related medical malpractice claims is negligence resulting in a failed sterilization. Patients have also filed successful actions against physicians for negligence leading to internal injuries, such as injuries to the bowels and the urinary tract resulting from perforation and burns. These burns can occur only if the electrocautery comes into direct contact with the bowel, so it is a frequent area of potential malpractice claims.
Some courts have recognized the existence of a cause of action for failed sterilizations based on breach of contract or warranty, either express or implied, where there was evidence that the patient was told that the operation would prevent future pregnancies. However, in a case where a consent form signed by the patient included a clause stating that “this operation is intended to produce sterility, although this result is not being guaranteed,” a court failed to find a cause of action for breach of contract. Other courts have concluded that statements made by a physician concerning the seriousness of a sterility procedure and giving opinions as to its probable outcome did not constitute an express warranty as to the outcome of the procedure. They were only necessary and proper statements prior to the procedure. For the breach of contract theory to be applied, a physician must offer more than mere reassurance or opinion. He or she must make a promise.