Shielded from Justice | Sojourners

Shielded from Justice

Consider the case of Mary Stone. She was 18 in 1970 when Dr. Hugh Davis, a professor of gynecology at Johns Hopkins University, gave her an intrauterine contraceptive device called a Dalkon Shield. Stone soon developed pain and heavy bleeding, which she says Davis dismissed as "normal."

More than a year later, Davis performed exploratory surgery and discovered that Mary Stone had a severe pelvic infection. His treatment did nothing to relieve her chronic pain, and finally in 1977 Stone consulted another physician. He hospitalized her immediately and performed a total hysterectomy.

Mary Stone was 25 and childless at the time. Now, 20 years since she first got her Dalkon Shield, she still experiences physical pain -- and anguished grief over a loss that can never be recovered.

The case of Mary Stone, and thousands of others like it, are indeed finally getting some long overdue consideration. On November 6 the Supreme Court ended a bitter 15-year legal battle, rejecting two appeals that had delayed settlement of cases and clearing the way for the establishment of a $2.4 billion trust fund to compensate Dalkon Shield victims.

BETWEEN 1970 AND 1974, physicians inserted 2.4 million Dalkon Shields into American women, and another two million were sent abroad. Inventor Hugh Davis promoted it as the "superior modern contraceptive" with a pregnancy rate of 1.1 percent -- equal to that of the birth control pill without the pill's risky side effects.

Davis's financial stake in the Shield was not revealed. Nor was the fact that his studies actually showed a 5 to 6 percent pregnancy rate.

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