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Sterilized woman wants $1.25 million

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 09/05) - The trial portion of a $1.25 million lawsuit filed by a woman who claims she was sterilized without her consent nearly two decades ago has been postponed indefinitely.

Georgina Base said in court papers that doctors at Stanton Territorial Hospital performed a tubal ligation on her in October 1986, when she was 15 years old.

Base said that at the time, neither she nor her Dogrib-speaking mother were aware of the consequences of the surgery, which is irreversible.

The trial was scheduled to begin late last month, but was adjourned at Base's request. Pamela Fisher, Base's lawyer, would not comment on reasons for the adjournment.

Base is suing doctors Clarence Moisey, Donald Hadley and Stanton Hospital.

In court papers, Moisey and Hadley - a pediatrician and surgeon respectively - said the tubal ligation was necessary because Base had a severe liver disorder and a pregnancy could be fatal.

There was some evidence Base was sexually active and Moisey worried she could not be trusted to use birth control. "(I had) a lack of confidence in the plaintiff's own personal birth control regime," he said in a statement of defence.

Moisey consulted with Hadley and, according to court papers, the pair decided a tubal ligation was the best way to keep Base from becoming pregnant.

Seven months after the procedure was performed, Base was transferred to London, Ont., where she underwent a successful a liver transplant.

It was not until the early 1990s that Base discovered she would be unable to have children because of the tubal ligation. In court papers, she claims the doctors did not properly explain the consequences of the procedure to her.

At the time, the doctors received permission for the surgery from Base's mother, whose first language was Dogrib and who could not speak or write English.

Base's lawyer said the tubal ligation was unnecessary and the physicians should have discussed alternate methods of birth control.

Doctors criticized

The lawsuit criticized the doctors - who were not specialists in liver disorders or gynecology - for not consulting with other physicians before going ahead with the procedure.

In a letter written to the court, Dr. Adrian Jones -- a physician who oversaw Base's case for several years but was not aware of the procedure -- said the tubal ligation was "entirely unnecessary at the time."

In the 1980s it was well documented that women with severe liver conditions could still have children, Jones wrote. He also pointed out that Base received a life saving liver transplant seven months after the tubal ligation, calling into question the need for the procedure.

"I believe Georgina Base was assaulted by having tubal ligation (and) that she did not fully - or at all - understand (what was being) performed on her," wrote Jones.

Base is also suing three of her former lawyers for $300,000, claiming they acted too slowly on the case, originally launched in the mid-1990s.

The department of Health and Social Services declined to comment on the case while it was before the courts.