Mother of Nine Sues Massachusetts Hospital After Unauthorized Sterilization

Tessa Savicki claims her tubes were tied without her consent after a C-section.

January 4, 2010, 1:27 PM

Jan. 5, 2010— -- A Massachusetts mother with nine children who had asked a hospital for post-delivery birth control was sterilized instead without her consent, according to a lawsuit against the Springfield hospital and several doctors and nurses.

Tessa Savicki, 35, claimed that doctors at Baystate Medical Center had agreed to insert an intrauterine device, or IUD, that she brought to the operating room, but instead performed a tubal ligation that effectively ended her chances of having more children.

"They've done something. They cannot correct this," she told "You think you're safe at the hospital. You're not."

Savicki's attorney, Dr. Max Borten of Waltham, Mass., a licensed obstetrician-gynecologist who practiced for 30 years, said his client was devastated when she found out about the tubal ligation shortly after a December 2006 Cesarean section.

Awake with only spinal anesthesia, Saviciki "realized that when she was still on the table," he said.

Savicki's children range in age from 3 to 21 and she is a grandmother of one with another grandchild on the way. She had her first child, a boy, at age 13 after being raped, she told ABC News.

Getting back on her feet after a rough start -- two of her children are on welfare and she is unemployed -- Savicki said she's working toward her GED.

Her three youngest children are with her fiance, Angel Tirado, who she said was hoping for one more baby. Their youngest, Manuel, was recently diagnosed with autism.

"He was talking about trying for another boy," she said.

She understands that she would not be able to adopt, given her financial situation.

Borten said the chances of Savicki being able to become pregnant again, even if an attempt to reverse the procedure was performed, would be slim.

"The issue here is a little broader and more involved than what people think," Borten said, noting how sterilizations have been used throughout history to control populations deemed unsavory. "The issue is, who has the right to permanently sterilize a woman? Or a man?"

Savicki said she believes the doctors intentionally sterilized her without her consent. "I honestly think they thought I had enough," she said.

Jane Albert, a spokeswoman for Baystate Health, declined to comment on the lawsuit or Savicki's own medical care, citing federal privacy regulations.

But speaking in general terms, it is "absolutely not" normal procedure for a woman to carry her own IUD into the operating room, Albert said.

"It is not our practice for a patient, it is not our practice to insert an IUD into a woman who has just had a C-section," Albert said.

Hospital Confirms No Consent Record Found for Mother's Tubal Ligation

According to the complaint, filed Nov. 24 in Hampden Superior Court, Savicki had agreed prior to a scheduled Cesarean section that her doctors would implant the IUD into her uterus at the end of the procedure. Instead, her tubes were tied after the birth of her ninth child.

It's a procedure, according to the lawsuit, that requires written consent of the women 30 days prior if the patient's medical expenses are covered by the state, as Savicki's were. Neither the consent form nor an accompanying "physician's statement" to be filled out by the doctor were found in Savicki's medical records.

Albert confirmed to that she had seen a copy of a May 22, 2009, letter from the hospital to Savicki's prior attorney confirming that no consent form for Savicki's tubal ligation was found by the hospital.

Messages left with the practices of the doctors named in the suit -- Michael Plevyak, James Kuo Chang Wang and Roman Starikov -- were not immediately returned.

Savicki's lawyer agreed that it was "extremely unusual" to insert an IUD after a C-section. He noted that Savicki had requested a similar procedure after the birth of her eighth child in 2005, but was not given the device after doctors forgot to implant it.

Savicki said she checked into Baystate on the night before her C-section and was told there by a nurse that a doctor would have to call in an IUD to the hospital pharmacy and she'd have to take it with her for the procedure.

The IUD, she said, sat in her hospital room the night before and, "I carried that thing proudly" into the operating room.

The suit against Baystate is not the first reproductive claim Savicki has filed. In 2001, Borten confirmed, Savicki won a settlement against CVS and a spermicide company after she became pregnant using expired spermicide.

Borten, who was not her lawyer in the case, said that kind of lawsuit could have garnered seven figures, but Savicki won only about $20,000 and took home a little more than $1,000.

He would not say how much in damages he would be seeking in Savicki's lawsuit against Baystate, but the complaint alleges that she suffered "substantial pain and suffering and emotion distress," as well as the physical injury of being sterilized.

Savicki said she hopes news of her lawsuit will spread and women and their doctors will be more careful about what happens with a woman's reproductive health.

"They never even said sorry. To this day I got no apology," she said. "I don't want them to make that mistake with someone else."

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