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Claiming for Sterilisation Failure

The failure rate for female sterilisation is around one in every 200. If you have been unfortunate enough to be one such individual who has fallen pregnant after a sterilisation, you will undoubtedly want to know why it happened, and whether or not medical professionals are to blame.

How can female sterilisation fail?

There are four reasons why sterilisation may fail:-

1. The tube re-generates otherwise known as recanalization. This is a known risk of sterilisation and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. The phenomenon occurs when the fallopian tubes naturally join back together, thereby allowing the passage of an egg into the uterus.

2. A fistula forms. This is like recanalization, in that the tubal ends heal together, but with a small hole known as a fistula. This may not allow the egg to leave the fallopian tube, but it will certainly allow sperm to enter the fallopian tube, subsequently resulting in an ectopic pregnancy. Again, this is a risk of sterilisation and medical professionals cannot avoid it happening.

3. The woman is pregnant at the time of the sterilisation. This means a fertilised egg has already implanted itself into the lining of the uterus, making a sterilisation futile. It is therefore vital medical professionals establish whether or not a woman is indeed pregnant by carrying out a test before the operation.

4. Imperfect surgical technique. During a sterilisation, a surgeon must be sure to secure clips to each fallopian tube. There are occasions when this is not performed accurately, and either the wrong structure is occluded (meaning a clip is attached to something such as a ligament, rather than a fallopian tube), or the clips are imperfectly applied (meaning the fallopian tubes are not fully occluded).

Does sterilisation failure amount to medical negligence?

Sterilisation does carry the risk of failure, and a woman should be advised that her tubes may re-canalise, or that a fistula may form. If either of these events occurs it will of course be very unlucky, but it will not amount negligence; indeed, there is nothing that can be done to prevent tubal re-generation.

However, litigation may follow if a pregnancy went undetected at the time of sterilisation, or if the surgical procedure was technically imperfect (either because the wrong structure was operated on, or the clips were not properly attached). If your sterilisation failed for either of these reasons, you need to talk to a solicitor about making a medical negligence claim.

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