Elringtons Health Law Update: Adverse Effects of Contraceptive Implant Mirena

We recently wrote about some serious side effects from contraceptive implants, Mirena and Implanon, which had initially been reported by the ABC.

Since then, there has been a case of a woman in QLD who suffered severe blood loss and can no longer have children, due to an issue with the Mirena implant. It is said the Mirena was incorrectly fitted and that this particular woman had a retroverted uterus, which increases the chances of side effects for a woman who has such a contraceptive device implanted. The surgery found a massive tear to her uterus, which is aligned with the ABC’s report that other uterus perforations have resulted from the Mirena.

In this particular case, the woman has said she was not warned of the risks, particularly regarding different uteruses, by her GP prior to having the device implanted.  A doctor owes a duty of care to you when prescribing you the right treatment and when giving warnings about the side effects on a treatment. As we say in our article Medications and Medical Negligence:

A doctor’s duty to warn about side effects extends to a side effect which a reasonable person in the circumstances would think was significant.  This accounts for the severity of a side effect, how often it might occur, and a patient’s particular circumstances.

Take for example the drug sodium valproate (Epilim).  It is known to carry a risk of birth defects if taken by women who are pregnant.  A doctor should warn a woman trying to get pregnant, or who is pregnant and taking Epilim, of this risk.  It is a serious risk.  However, a doctor treating a female patient who chooses not to have children or is unable to have children, need not be warned of the risk, as that patient would attach no significance to it.

A person’s particular circumstances may require a doctor to warn about a side effect which they ordinarily would not be required to warn about. For example, a patient who only has vision in 1 eye would likely place more importance on a slight risk of harm to their vision than someone who has no sight impairment. Another example is where a person asks particular questions of their doctor about risks of harm and side effects.

The poor Queensland woman ought to have been warned about the potential side effects. While a doctor owes you a duty of care, one way to help prevent side effects from occurring is to inform yourself of the proposed treatment. We made recommendations in our article Hospital Complications and Negligence about the sort of questions you may ask:

In 2018 the Harvard University recommended 7 questions to ask a doctor when they prescribe a new medication. These are:

  • Why do I need this medication, and how does it work?
  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • Are there side effects?
  • How do I take this medication?
  • Do I need to avoid anything while taking this new medication?
  • How soon will the medication work, and how long will I be taking it?
  • When will you review how well this is working for me?

These types of questions can help you know about the treatment and the risks and benefits of the treatment.

If you have a contraceptive implant and have experiences any side effects, you should seek immediate medical advice. If your side effects have led to further medical treatment, time off work, or other pain and suffering, compensation may be available to you. A medical negligence claim can seek damages to help compensate for and suffering experienced.

We have further information available to help you understand your rights and any remedies available to you following medical negligence:

Please feel free to contact our medical negligence team for further information or to discuss your circumstances.

For similar, or further information, see: