August 24, 2015
by Bonnie Steinbock, Bioethics Program Faculty
Yesenia Pacheco, a mother of two from Seattle, Washington, decided that her family was complete, and that she did not want any more children. To ensure that she would not have an unwanted pregnancy, she sought medical advice from NeighborCare Health, a federally funded health clinic, about her birth control options. The clinic gave her an injection of Depo-Provera, an extremely reliable long-acting contraceptive method, which must be repeated every three months.
Ms. Pacheco duly scheduled subsequent injections at three-month intervals. But during one of those visits, she was not injected with Depo-Provera, but instead was given a flu shot. Apparently, the clinic did not record in Ms. Pacheco’s chart that she was supposed to be given a Depo-Provera shot, nor did they get her informed consent for a flu shot, minimal requirements for responsible medical practice. Ms. Pacheco only learned what had occurred when she attempted to schedule her next Depo-Provera injection. By that time, she was two and half months pregnant.
The clinic informed her that she would not have to have the child, that it would provide her with an abortion at no cost. Ms. Pacheco refused, because of religious objections to abortion. She gave birth to a daughter, Sandra, now aged 3, who has a genetic brain disorder, known as polymicrogyria (PMG). The condition produces symptoms that range from mild to severe, depending on how much of the brain is affected. Sandra’s motor and language skills, attention span, and cognitive functions have been impaired.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.