An Illinois mom is suing her physician for “wrongful pregnancy,” claiming she received a botched tubal ligation procedure, which led to the birth of a daughter with sickle cell disease. Cynthia Williams, 40 year-old mom of three had only her left ovary and believed that she could not get pregnant because she believed the tube had been tied.
Cynthia recalls the “impossible” blue line on the pregnancy test she took, which was swiftly confirmed by the tiny flutter of a heartbeat on a sonogram. Recalling, “I was livid. I just lost it.” When she was 12, she had lost her right ovary to a cyst. The very same day, she had also discovered that she carried the sickle cell trait, which is a genetic abnormality that could cause a dangerous blood disorder in children.
Cynthia later married a man, Kenneth, whom she found out also carried the sickle cell trait after the couples second son had been born with the disease. She says “That’s when we decided not to have more children.” However, four years later Williams became pregnant once more after employing the rhythm method of birth control. She was told that there was a 25 percent chance that they baby would be born with sickle cell disease. Both parents were relieved when their daughter was born and was found to only be a carrier of the trait. That was when Cynthia began taking a birth control pill, but high blood pressure caused her to look for a more permanent option.
She recalls “At that point, I just wanted to get my tubes tied.” In December 2008, she had the sterilization surgery, but six months later, she stared in shock at the sonogram. In 2010, she gave birth to her fourth child, daughter Kennadi, who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease. Now the Williams family is suing Dr. Byron Rosner of Reproductive Health Associates for “wrongful pregnancy,” claiming that Dr. Rosner “failed to perform an adequate or appropriate tubal ligation,” that resulted in an unexpected pregnancy and the birth of a sick child.
Because Cynthia did not have her right ovary, she only needed her left Fallopian tube tied. However, Rosner “tied, excised and cauterized” her right tube, according to medical records that were acquired by ABCNews.com. Records showed that her left tube was “normal in appearance” and intact at the time of the Kennadi’s birth. The family is seeking damages for “personal injury to her, emotional distress and for lost wages,” as well as the “extraordinary expenses” that she expects to incur raising a child with sickle cell disease.
She adds; “I love Kennadi with all my heart, and that’s the honest-to-God truth, but it’s been a life change for everybody – my whole family.” Cynthia’s other children are ages 25, 21 and 17, who all banded together to help raise Kennadi, as she went into congestive heart failure shortly after she delivered her daughter. Recalling her two-week stay in the intensive care unit, as well as her nine-month leave of absence from work.
“This is right after I have a baby that I still can’t believe I had, I couldn’t be with my baby because I was too sick.”
The mom of 4 has since recovered. However, Kennadi, who is now 4 years-old faces a long road ahead and a lifetime of health problems. The sickle cell disease that she is affected with makes her usual round and squishy red blood cells become C-shaped and hard instead. Her misshaped cells do not flow smoothly throughout her blood vessels, but instead become stuck, which causes pain as well as raising her risk of infections and stroke.
Even though tubal ligation is generally considered a “permanent method of birth control,” according to the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology say as many as 37 per 1,000 women will become pregnant within 10 years of having a procedure. As a result of this, Cynthia had struggled to find a lawyer who was willing to take on her case. Beverly Spearman, who had originally rejected the case says “Having a baby after a sterilization procedure is something that happens.” However, when she learned Cynthia was missing one of her ovaries, she reconsidered and took on the case, adding “When I found out more about the whole story, I said ‘OK, let’s move forward. Let’s see where this goes.”
Soon Spearman found out that the wrongful pregnancy suit, which was filed in 2010, happened to be the first of its kind in Illinois. Dr. Rosner’s attorney, Todd Stalmack, had moved to dismiss the lawsuit and argued that Illinois law doesn’t allow parents to recover costs that are associated with raising a child born with a genetic defect after an unsuccessful sterilization procedure. However, on February 26th, 2014, an appellate court had ruled that the case could indeed move forward.
Rosner and Stalmack both are looking over their options, saying “We respectfully disagree with [the appellate court’s] decision. They are both raising the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois. Rosner stands firm that he “complied with the standard of care” while performing Cynthia’s tubal ligation.
Now 44 years-old, Cynthia admits that she is “tired all the time,” while raising her energetic and medically-needy 4 year-old. She adds
“Everybody’s had to pitch in, it’s been hard to wrap my mind around having this child when my other children are grown. It’s not fair. She’s the absolute love of my life, but it’s hard. Sometimes people think I’m her grandmother.”