Windhoek High Court, 02 June
09h30 – Court room is full with supporters. Defense for state is currently cross-examining the patient. Questioning why the patient had time to sign the consent form but didn’t have time to ask what was on the form. Suggested patient had personal responsibility to ask about a life-changing operation.
10h42 – “You are a reasonably intelligent woman capable of asking a question without being invited to ask a question… It is your life that is being changed and you have the responsibility to ask.”
11h02 – Patient claims she received family planning counseling at ante-natal clinic but was not informed about sterilization – that she did not know what sterilisation was before the surgery. The defense claims that nurses will testify that all HIV patients are informed in group therapy about sterilisation as an option for family planning.
11h37 – Cross examination over. The persecutor is now asking more questions.
11h50 – Patient’s lawyer asked her to re-read the consent form and identify if the work uterus appears on the form. She reported there was no mention about “removing uterus or womb” on the form. The nurse at the time allegedly explained that the patient’s uterus would be removed b/c all HIV+ women have that surgery. She did not refer to it as sterilisation, which it was referred to as on the consent form. The patient reports she did not learn the meaning of the word sterilisation until after the surgery.
12h01 – First witness (patient) has been dismissed from the witness stand. The next witness has been sworn in.
12h22 – Second plaintiff reports that she had a breached pregnancy (explained to her by a Doctor at clinic). It was then explained that she would need a caesarian section. The woman alleges the doctor told her that during the C-section they would sterilize her, that she would be unable to have more children, and that she should agree to the procedure. The plaintiff alleges that Doctor at Katatura State Hospital told her this in English. The plaintiff is testifying in Oshiwambo.
12h27 – Plaintiff alleges the Doctor did not ask her if she wanted more children, she did not receive any counseling about sterilisation, and did not explain the consequences of the surgery. She alleges he did not ask her if she wanted the surgery, but that he “only told me I was going to be sterilised.”
12h46 – The plaintiff reports that the Doctor first told her about the sterilisation on the 6th of Dec. She was admitted on the 8th because of contractions and delivered just after midnight on the morning of the 9th. The plaintiff alleges she was presented with the consent forms just before she went for C-section. When she asked what the papers were for, she alleges the nurse said: “The doctor has already explained what the forms mean… Take these papers and sign so I can give you the drip and take you to the theatre.”
14h45 – Court reconvenes after lunch.
Plaintiff was asked to sign two forms – one for C-section and one for BTL. The consent form for BTL says nature of procedure was explained, but plaintiff alleges the procedure was not explained. She was not told there was an option to not sign. At the times she was asked to sign the forms she reported that she was in severe labor pains. “I did not want to be sterilized. If I had I could have asked for myself.”
14h50 – In the 3+ days she was in the hospital after her C-section, plaintiff claims no one spoke with her about the steril. One of the drs told her that she had a “deep operation” and that was the cause of abdomen and back pain. Plaintiff alleges that it was not until 6 weeks later that she learned of the sterilisation, when she went to doctor to get contraceptives and she was told she did not need contraceptives because she had been sterilised.
15h04 – The plaintiff did not tell her family what happened because they were not aware of her HIVpositive status and she felt that she could not tell them about her sterilisation without telling them about her status.
The plaintiff reported that if she still had the choice she would want to have more children. She now understands that she cannot have more children and she feels bad about it.
15h29 – The plaintiff’s lawyer explained that the defense claims that sterilization was recommended in part because she had a hemmorage problem during her last pregnancy. The plaintiff claims that the dr told her she would need to be steril because she had already had one C-section and because she was HIV+. The plaintif claims this conversation occurred on Dec 6, and that sterilization was not mentioned on the day/evening that she gave birth (Dec 8-9).
Plaintiff alleges the risks were not explained to her on the 6th, and that she still does not understand the risks of the procedure.
16h00 – Court recesses as cross examination begins.
– contributed by Andrea Flynn, an intern at Women’s Health Network
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