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Couple Sue Doctor For Their Post-Vasectomy Baby — Is This Right?

Wed, December 29, 2010 9:04am EDT by 1 Comment

iStockAfter a post-snip surprise, an Oregon couple is suing the physician and his medical group for $650,000, claiming that negligence led to the birth of their unexpected child.

Scott and Donnita Bassinger didn’t plan on having another baby — that’s why Scott had a vasectomy. But something went wrong with the procedure and Donnita, 42, ended up pregnant. While the couple are happy with their new son, they want the physician who performed Scott’s unsuccessful vasectomy to help pay for the child’s upbringing. The Oregon couple filed a lawsuit of $650,000 against Dr. Stephen Schepergerdes and Oregon Medical Group, claiming that negligence and misrepresentation led to the birth of their late-in-life and unplanned child. Does it seem wrong for them to sue for a child that they claim they are happy to have?

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The couple say the money will help them pay for the Caesarian delivery and various costs associated with their son’s upbringing and college education. The lawsuit says that Dr. Schepergerdes failed to inform the couple that he encountered complications while trying to complete Scott’s vasectomy on March 30, 2007, writing in his records that Scott’s tubes were thin and hard to dissect. In a statement to their local paper The Register-Guard, the Bassingers emphasized that although their pregnancy wasn’t planned, they are extremely grateful for their son.”We are thankful for our child every day,” they said. “He is loved and adored by our family and friends. We didn’t know we needed this baby to complete our family. The issue is not our love for our child.”

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Rather, they say that the issue is “professional negligence, misrepresentation and the risk our family was subjected to.” They continued with, “I am sure you are aware of the challenges of raising a child late in life and the increased medical risks one faces when having a baby at age 42,” they wrote. “The medical diagnosis is ‘Advanced Maternal Age,’ which meant Donnita had to endure numerous tests and procedures and we had months of anxiety. Luckily, Donnita was healthy throughout her pregnancy and our child is very happy and healthy.”

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Scott and Donnita claim in their lawsuit that Dr. Schepergerdes didn’t “correctly read and interpret” a lab report of a semen sample Scott submitted in July 2007 to make sure that the procedure left him sterile. The lab report said that the sample contained sperm “too numerous too count,” but Dr. Schepergerdes told his staff to let Scott know his semen was without sperm. Then in December 2008, Donnita learned she was pregnant.

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The couple is asking for $35,000 to cover Donnita’s obstetrical and hospital services during her pregnancy and the birth of their child. They also seek $500,000 to cover their child’s expenses until he turns 18, and an additional $140,000 to cover his college education. It is scary to think that it costs over $600,000 to raise a child, isn’t it?

University of Oregon Law School professor Dominick Vetri says U.S. courts have allowed cases like the Bassingers’ to go to trial. Most courts have found it “appropriate for the couple to be able to claim damages for the upbringing of the child,” Vetri said. Back in 1994 a precedent was set for cases like this when the Oregon Supreme Court refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a couple who conceived a child after the wife had an unsuccessful sterilization procedure. What do you think, Hollymoms? Are the Bassingers doing the right thing?

–Leigh Blickley

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