Court compensates woman who became pregnant after sterilisation

A court in Prague handed down an unusual verdict on Monday in the case of a woman who became pregnant despite having been sterilised. The Central Bohemia Regional court, which is located in Prague, ordered a hospital in Kutná Hora to pay 30,000 crowns – that’s about 1,500 U.S. dollars – to the woman, who became pregnant a year after being sterilised at Kutná Hora hospital four years ago.

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The story, featured in Tuesday’s Hospodářské noviny, concerns a woman named as Renata H. In 2004, after having three children, decided she didn’t want any more and underwent sterilisation at Kutná Hora hospital. One year later, however, she found she was pregnant again and later gave birth to healthy baby. She sued the hospital for half a million crowns (just under 25,000 dollars). The hospital rejected her demand for compensation, and the case went to the regional court.

The court, however, did not rule the hospital had messed up the operation - experts testified that doctors had not put a foot wrong and that the operation to sterilise Renata H was carried out in an exemplary fashion. The problem, the court heard, is that no sterilisation operation is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy.

Medical experts testified that in very rare cases, women can still become pregnant even if the passage between ovaries and womb has been blocked. The court ruled that Renata H had not been sufficiently made aware of this statistically unlikely but still theoretically possible chance, and chose to compensate her, albeit to the tune of just 30,000 crowns. The hospital denies she was not sufficiently informed.

Renata H is the fourth case in recent years where women have sued hospitals after giving birth to healthy children, although in none of them has the court granted the substantial compensation demanded by the women.

The record compensation pay-out was 80,000 crowns (almost 4,000 dollars), for a woman who was pregnant with twins and had an abortion. Doctors, however, aborted only one foetus and the woman gave birth to the second child. There were two similar cases to Renata H – i.e. becoming pregnant despite having being sterilised – but in both cases the court refused to pay compensation.

For now, Kutná Hora hospital says it won’t change its rules, and won’t force women to sign a piece of paper saying they are aware of the potential risk of pregnancy despite sterilisation. They say that’s because in their view Renata H was told it could, in theory, happen.