Claim: I was sterilized against my will
A 35-year-old mother of nine is suing a Springfield hospital, three doctors and two nurses, claiming they permanently sterilized her against her will, violating her reproductive rights, according to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.
Tessa Savicki, who has nine children aged 3 to 21, claims doctors were supposed to implant an intrauterine device, which is a type of reversible birth control, after she delivered a son, Manuel Flores, on Dec. 19, 2006, at Baystate Medical Center.
Instead, she said, a type of permanent sterilization known as a tubal ligation was performed, leaving her mentally distraught and incapable of bearing more children.
“There was no medical reason for them to do this,” Savicki told the Herald. “That’s my choice. This is my body. I wanted the IUD so later if I felt I wanted more children, I could have more.”
Savicki said she did not sign a written consent for a tubal ligation, which under federal and state regulations is required at least 30 days in advance for all MassHealth patients who want a permanent sterilization procedure.
Savicki’s attorney, Max Borten of Waltham, alleges that his client’s human and constitutional rights were violated and that the hospital had a “total breakdown of protocols.”
“There were violations at many, many levels,” said Borten, a former obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced as a physician for more than 30 years in Massachusetts.
Medical records sought
Borten provided the Herald with a Baystate Medical Center letter on Savicki’s case, signed on May 22, 2009, by an employee of the hospital’s Health Information Management System department. It reads: “We regret to tell you that in spite of carefully and thoroughly searching, we have been unable to locate the following medical records: ‘Tubal consent form for December 2006.’ ”
The signed letter was sent by Baystate to one of Savicki’s previous attorneys, Borten said.
Baystate spokeswoman Jane Albert confirmed that the document was signed and sent by an employee in the Health Information Management System department. She declined to comment on it.
She also declined to comment on Savicki’s allegations or the lawsuit. The hospital was served with the lawsuit Dec. 15, she said.
“There’s pending litigation. We can’t comment and that holds true for the doctors,” Albert said.
Savicki is suing Drs. Michael P. Plevyak and James Kuo Chang Wang and a third physician who has not yet been served, as well as two nurses and the medical center, according to the complaint, filed on Nov. 24 in Hampden Superior Court. The complaint alleges Savicki suffered “substantial pain and emotional distress and incurred severe and permanent physical injuries.”
Plevyak and Wang did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. On Dec. 16, Albert issued this statement to the Herald on their behalfs: “I cannot comment on this as it is in litigation.”
Savicki said she brought the IUD into the operating room, unopened and in a box, on Dec. 19, 2006. She said she handed the box to the nurse prior to the planned Caesarean section. Her medical record notes that the IUD was to be implanted following delivery, according to the complaint.
Post-delivery notes indicate she received a tubal ligation, the complaint says. The surgical notes were reviewed by the Herald.
This is the second time Savicki has sued over reproductive issues. In 2001, she reached a settlement with CVS and a spermacide company after she became pregnant with her now 12-year-old daughter after claiming she bought and used an expired spermacide, according to federal court documents.
Savicki has nine children from several men, is unemployed and relies on public assistance for two of the four children who live with her. She receives supplemental security income, or SSI, for a disability, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she said. Her mother has custody of three of her children. Two of her children are no longer minors.
‘It’s my choice’
Savicki acknowledged that some may feel little sympathy for her situation, but cautioned against public judgment because she is a poor, unmarried mother of 9.
“I would never have the right to tell anyone else ‘because you have this many kids that’s enough,’ ” she said. “That’s no one’s right to say that. It’s my choice. No one has the right to say you’ve had enough.
“I take care of my kids. I love my kids. I was not ready to make that kind of decision,” she said of the permanent sterilization.
Savicki said her life has stabilized in the last decade after a rocky start. She had her first child at 13 and dropped out of high school in the ninth grade.
Savicki said she’s been in a relationship with her fiance, Angel Flores Tirado, 36, since she was 25. She lives with him and the couple’s three children. Tirado helps support the family with his full-time job as a personal care assistant. Savicki said she’s had eight of her nine children while in committed relationships and hoped for one more child with Tirado.
“It’s not like I’m jumping from guy to guy to guy to get pregnant,” she said. “I’m trying to make a healthy home for my children.”
On the one hand, I raise an eyebrow at her situation, and the desire to want to bring another child into it, but on the other hand, it isn't up to anyone to make reproductive choices for someone else against their wishes.