What Is Vasectomy and Sterilisation?
Both vasectomies and sterilisation are forms of birth control. Tubal sterilisation is a procedure carried out on a woman, while a vasectomy is a procedure carried out on a man.
Tubal sterilisation prevents the egg from moving down the fallopian tubes by closing them off or removing them. This, in turn, stops the sperm from reaching the egg.
Tubal sterilisation can be carried out by:
- Mini-laparotomy – This method involves making a cut in the abdomen and bringing the fallopian tubes up through this incision. The tubes are either removed completely or else a small section of each tube is removed. Occasionally, clips used to close off the tubes. This procedure is often used for postpartum sterilisation.
- Laparoscopy – This method involves making a small incision on or near the belly button and inserting a laparoscope into the patient. A laparoscope allows pelvic organs to be seen. The fallopian tubes are then removed using either instruments passed through the laparoscope or using another instrument inserted through another small incision.
The procedure for removing a fallopian tube completely is known as salpingectomy.
Tubal sterilisation is a highly effective permanent method of birth control that should not affect your sex drive. Nevertheless, there are risks involved with the procedure. With both procedures, there is a risk of internal bleeding or risks associated with the wound healing. Moreover, there is a risk that other organs may be injured during surgery.
There is a small risk that the tubal sterilisation will not work and that the blocked tube will rejoin. If the operation does fail and you subsequently become pregnant, there is an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. This occurs where a fertilised egg implants outside the womb, often in the fallopian tube, and can potentially be life threatening for the mother if the pregnancy continues.
The vas deferens, also known as a sperm duct, is one of the two tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. Sperm constitute part of a man’s semen. A vasectomy involves tying, cutting, clipping or sealing the vas deferens to prevent the release of sperm into the semen.
There are two main types of vasectomy:
- A conventional vasectomy – This method involves making two small cuts on the skin on each side of the scrotum. The vas deferens is then reached via these incisions and the tube is cut. A small section of the tube is removed, and the tubes are either tied or sealed using heat. The small cuts made are then stitched.
- No-scalpel vasectomy – This method involves making a tiny puncture hole in the skin of the scrotum to reach the vas deferens. It is then cut, and the tubes are either tied or sealed.
A vasectomy prevents a man’s sperm fertilising a woman’s egg but does not affect his sex drive. Nevertheless, there are certain risks associated with having a vasectomy and vasectomy reversal is very challenging. While major complications are rare, there is a risk of minor bleeding and infection.
A no-scalpel vasectomy is thought to cause less complications than a conventional vasectomy because it is thought to cause less bleeding and it does not require stitches. Vasectomies can cause haematoma which is collection of blood inside the scrotum. They can also give rise to sperm granulomas, which are hard lumps caused by sperm leaking from tubes, and long-term testicular pain.
Men who have had vasectomies may suffer from prostate and testicular cancer, however, there is not enough evidence to conclude that having a vasectomy increases your risk of developing prostate cancer.
What Causes a Vasectomy or Sterilisation to Fail?
Sterilisation and vasectomies are highly effective procedures; however, both can fail.
There is a risk that a sterilisation will fail. Although rare, it is possible for the fallopian tubes to rejoin and make a woman fertile once again.
A vasectomy may fail because a couple has unprotected sex too soon after the procedure has taken place. A vasectomy stops sperm from entering the vas deferens but, at the time of the procedure, there will already be sperm present in the vas deferens and they can continue to live there for months. Before having unprotected sex, couples should wait until the semen is tested and shows zero sperm. The first test will likely be done after 20-25 ejaculations or two to three months after the procedure, whichever is longer.
Rarely, a vasectomy can fail as a result of the vas deferens reattaching on its own following the procedure. While this is unlikely to happen, there is an increased risk of it occurring in the first few weeks following surgery.
Occasionally, a surgical error may cause a vasectomy to fail.
What Claims Can Result From Failed Vasectomy and Sterilisation?
A claim for wrongful conception may arise where a pregnancy results from a failed sterilisation procedure.
A claim for wrongful birth may arise where a pregnancy occurs following a failed abortion or a failure to advise parents that an unborn child has congenital abnormalities at the antenatal screening, thus, depriving them of the opportunity to have an abortion.
Sterilisation negligence claims arise as a result of wrong conception or wrongful birth. Medical professionals carrying out sterilisation procedures owe their patients a duty of care and a negligence claim can arise where this duty of care is breached.
What Might Amount to Sterilisation Negligence?
For a claim of negligence to succeed where a failed vasectomy or sterilisation has occurred, it must be established that:
- There was a duty of care owed by the medical practitioner to the patient.
- This duty of care was breached.
- The patient suffered damage.
- There is a causal link between the beach of duty of care and the damage suffered.
Moreover, the test for medical negligence in these cases is whether the medical practitioner has been proven guilty of a failure that no medical practitioner of equal specialist or general status and skill would be found guilty of if acting with ordinary care.
Damages for Negligent Sterilisation Procedures
What Men Can Claim for a Failed Vasectomy
Men can seek damages for:
- The cost of repeat surgery and the associated pain, suffering and recovery period.
- The loss of earnings associated with the recovery time.
- The psychological distress that the negligence may be linked to.
- In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation for the associated cost of raising the child.
What Women Can Claim for a Failed Sterilisation
Women can seek damages for:
- The physical suffering caused by the pregnancy, labour and/or termination.
- The loss of earnings associated with the pregnancy and/or recovery period.
- The psychological distress associated with the failure.
Claiming for A Failed Vasectomy or Sterilisation
To make a claim for a failed vasectomy or sterilisation, you should take the following steps:
- Consult with a medical negligence solicitor to investigate your claim. We have a dedicated team here at HOMS Assist.
- Once you instruct a member of our team, we will obtain copies of all the relevant medical records.
- Our team will then engage an appropriate medical expert, usually from the United Kingdom, to furnish a written opinion as to whether the medical care provided to you and/or your partner fell below an acceptable reasonable standard, resulting in a breach of duty of care.
- We will also obtain a written opinion from the same medical expert, or from another appropriate expert to confirm that there is a causal connection between the breach of duty and the injury that you sustained.
- If the independent medical expert(s) conclude(s) that medical negligence has occurred, your medical negligence solicitor will draft a letter of claim outlining the nature of your case and inviting the responsible medical practitioner(s)/hospital to settle your case. It is usually necessary to initiate court proceedings, given the tight timelines involved in bringing a medical negligence case. What happens next depends on the response to the letter of claim.
How Long Do You Have to Make a Claim?
For medical negligence, you have 2 years less one day from the date an injury is known to have been sustained, to make a claim. However, this time limit will not run against someone who is under 18 or who is of unsound mind. If you are injured as a child, you have 2 years less a day from the date of your 18th birthday, however, a parent or guardian can bring a claim on behalf of a child before their 18th birthday.
How HOMS Assist Can Help
Our dedicated team here at HOMS Assist can help you make a claim for a failed vasectomy or sterilisation. We can guide you along every step of the way, from obtaining medical records to initiating court proceedings.
If you or your loved one have suffered a failed vasectomy or sterilisation, we may be able to help.
With over 50 years of expert legal experience advising patients, we are here to provide expert advice when you need it most.
Call us today on 1800 207 207 or contact us online to have a confidential conversation about your situation.