September 20, 2009 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
This story will make you angry and leave you wondering about the common sense, ethics, and business judgment of a medical group known as “Advanced Women’s Health Center” located in Bakersfield.
Additionally, the underlying subject will be of special interest to any woman — especially married couples — considering the Mirena IUD as a form of birth control. According to physicians and lawyers You and the Law interviewed, this IUD has a lot of women wishing they had opted for some other form of birth control.
It all began on July 7 of 2007 when 19-year-old Kendole Jones gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Ada. Both she and her husband, David, realized that building a good marriage — and being good parents to Ada — required a great deal of time, and that it would be best to wait some years before having more children.
It was therefore natural for Kendole to discuss birth control options with her OB/GYN, Dr. Jason Helliwell at the Advanced Women’s Health Center in Bakersfield. “He suggested, that if I wished to be on a long-term birth control program, the Mirena IUD would be the perfect five-year plan, with less than a 1 percent chance of anything going wrong.”
“Six weeks after the birth of my daughter, while I was still swollen from the delivery, and before my episiotomy had healed, Dr. Helliwell insisted I should have the IUD inserted that day!” she told me.
“I thought that I was in his office for a follow-up after my delivery, but here I was, handed a release to sign which did outline what could go wrong, but there was no chance to read it. Everything was rushed. The doctor never verbally advised me of any adverse side effects.”
“Next, I was hurriedly given a gown to put on, my legs were up in stirrups, very much like getting a pap smear. There was no cleaning, or other sterile preparation steps, no pain medication was provided, but they finally did apply a gel to dilate the cervix, as the doctor was hurting me in his effort to insert the IUD.”
“Once he got past my cervix, and released the IUD so that it opened up, I immediately felt a horribly sharp pain on my left side. On a 1 to 10 scale of labor pain, this was a 7! The doctor said that cramping was normal, just sit here for a half an hour. I told him this was not cramping! He just said that pain is a normal thing, as it was just implanted. The pain did not go away, and it never went away, in fact became worse.”
“While they had an ultrasound machine available in their office, the doctor never used it, and he did not examine me to see where the IUD was placed or why I had so much pain.” she continued, with tears streaming down her face.
Not seen as malpractice
“Incorrect placement is a known risk of the procedure and does not mean that the physician has committed malpractice. However, with those immediate painful symptoms, an ultrasound was clearly indicated, as her pain was consistent with the IUD being improperly placed. Yes, the body can move an IUD — over months and years — but her symptoms clearly pointed to the device being incorrectly inserted,” You and the Law was told by two OB-GYN physicians, one of whom is an associate professor of Obstetrics at a Southern California teaching hospital.
Complaints are ignored
“I repeatedly phoned the doctor’s office in the days and weeks which followed, telling them that the pain on my left side was getting worse. I also told them that my A.I.M. Pregnancy Related Health Insurance would end in early September. Every time I called, I was told by the receptionist that cramping was normal, there would be pain associated, as there was a foreign object in my body. Each time I asked to speak with the doctor, but he never called me back,” Kendole stated. “The doctor had no idea I had been calling.”
With her pregnancy insurance rapidly coming to an end, and unable to stand the pain anymore, Kendole demanded they advance her appointment. She was seen on Sept. 25, well after insurance had lapsed.
“The doctor asked me what was going on. It was obvious he had no idea I had been calling. He had an in-house ultrasound performed to locate the IUD, as he could not find the strings. They could NOT find the IUD! Immediately I was sent to a hospital for a pelvic x-ray to find out where the IUD was located. Returning to the doctor’s office, I was given the bad news.”
“It punctured your uterus and is lodged in your abdomen on the left side. I will do surgery tomorrow,” the doctor told her.
The next day — Sept. 26, 2007 — he performed laparoscopic surgery, while she was under a general aesthetic. The Mirena IUD was removed. “After that, no more pain, and I’ve been fine since,” Kendole explained.
“His office tried to get the procedure and hospital bill paid for by my insurance as it was a complication — that was the term they used — from the original insertion. They were unsuccessful. His bill was $5,700 and the hospital was $12,000.”
“While I felt this was malpractice, as I made a good recovery, there was no point in suing the doctor,” she concluded.
Sue the patient!
Now, for a moment, assume that you are the doctor. You were paid by health insurance for the original insertion of the IUD, and something you did hurt your patient. She was in great pain, your office knew that time was critical, as her insurance was running out, yet delayed getting her back in for care. Her insurance will not pay your bill. Nor will they pay the hospital bill.
Should you bill the patient or write it off? Well guess what — Dr. Helliwell, did not write it off. Advanced Women’s Health Center hired a collection agency, which then filed a lawsuit to recover the fees for removing the IUD!
Dr. Helliwell declined to speak with You and the Law. His office manager, Carrie Thomas, did issue the following statement, “We did nothing wrong, and besides, the doctor thinks you are biased because Kendole discussed our lawsuit with you.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.