Woman Can Sue Hospital for Brain Damage Caused by NuvaRing

In April of 2010, then 17-year-old Sarah Adams was prescribed a NuvaRing contraceptive device by a nurse practitioner at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Less than three months later, Adams suffered a total cardiac arrest that left her with “significant and permanent brain damage with marked cognitive and fine motor skills deficits,” according to a lawsuit she filed against Montefiore.

And last week, a state appeals court in New York allowed that lawsuit to continue, denying Montefiore’s motion to dismiss the claims. Here’s what happened, factually and legally.

NuvaRing, Old Dangers

Although Adams notified the nurse practitioner about a family history of heart disease and a chronic heart murmur and NuvaRing is known to cause blood clots that can lead to cardiac arrest, she was given the device anyway. Just two months after having the contraceptive device inserted, Adams was complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain and began seeing physicians from her school clinic to her pediatrician, to the emergency room at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

On June 8, Smith went into total cardiac arrest, and a CT scan showed embolisms in her brain. Smith was hospitalized for a month, and, according to her suit, now requires “constant around-the-clock care.”

Accepted Medical Practices

Montefiore tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, relying on a doctor’s affidavit contending it did not depart from the accepted standards of medical care in prescribing the NuvaRing or failing to diagnose or remove the NuvaRing as the cause of Adams’ distress. Adams responded with her own medical expert, who claimed several “departures from accepted medical practice” by Montefiore and its employees:

[T]he failure to have plaintiff patient sign the consent form and the failure to retain a copy; the failure to document that plaintiff was counseled regarding the serious side effects associated with the use of the NuvaRing and the importance of immediately removing the device in the event she experienced such symptoms; and the failure to properly evaluate plaintiff or to immediately remove the device when plaintiff presented to the clinic complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath.

In the end, the court decided these were decisions best left to a jury, and allowed Adams’ lawsuit to proceed.

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