Colombian doctor ordered to pay patient's child support after failed vasectomy

Stock image of scissors being passed in surgery
The couple didn't any additional children due to their financial difficulties. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Colombian doctor has been ordered to pay child support to his patient after a vasectomy he performed on the man proved unsuccessful.

After a lengthy legal battle, the Superior Court of Medellín in Colombia has ruled that the doctor who performed the failed surgery is required to pay child support at the rate of minimum wage until the child, who is 10, turns 18. Over the next eight years, the payments will total an estimated 295 million Colombian pesos (about NZ$103,960).

According to reports, the father of the child, who has not been named, decided to undergo a vasectomy in 2012 as he and his wife, who already had two children, weren't earning enough income to support another child. 

The man also suffers with severe bilateral hearing loss, according to Infobae, a Spanish-language news site based in the US, which makes it difficult for him to work - contributing to the family's ongoing financial difficulties. As a result of the condition, he experiences frequent dizziness and nausea.

After undergoing the procedure, which is considered a low-risk and simple operation, the man returned to the clinic for an examination and was assured the vasectomy had been successful. 

However, his wife fell pregnant the following year, giving birth to their daughter on October 1, 2013. 

In 2017, the couple decided to take the doctor and the clinic to court, claiming the failed surgery had caused them financial and emotional distress. During the legal battle, the couple argued they had unwillingly become parents to a third child due to the botched procedure.

After a number of years, it's now been revealed that the judge ruled in the couple's favour, declaring that the doctor and the health authority in charge of the clinic are liable for the court fees and 80 instalments of the Colombian minimum wage as child support.

The court finding said the failure of the surgery had a lasting impact on the family's life, the Daily Mail reported. 

"As a result of this unexpected conclusion, the patient was not recommended to continue using contraceptive methods to avoid the risk of pregnancy,' the court ruling read, as per the Daily Mail.

"When it was proved that the parents did not want to [have] more children, it was concluded that there was an impact on their life projects that had repercussions in the immaterial field, especially considering the precarious economic situation of the father, who currently cannot work due to their health problems." 

In his first ruling in December 2022, the judge also noted that the failed procedure had not only "considerably affected the economy of the family nucleus", but had harmed the couple's "exercise of sexuality and reproductive freedom".

"It has generated worries and afflictions for the plaintiffs, since they have no way to meet the basic needs of the minor," the judge said.

What is a vasectomy? 

A vasectomy is an elective surgical procedure for male sterilisation or permanent contraception. During the procedure, the male vasa deferentia are either sealed or cut and tied to cut the supply of sperm to the man's semen: a successful vasectomy means the man can no longer impregnate a female partner. It's considered a low-risk procedure and can usually be performed in an outpatient setting under local anaesthesia.

Vasectomies are considered the most effective method of birth control with a long-term success rate of over 99 percent. According to a 2016 report published on the US National Library of Medicine, the early failure rate of a vasectomy (the presence of active sperm in the ejaculate three-to-six months post-vasectomy) is in the range of 0.3–9 percent, and the late failure rate is in the range of 0.04–0.08 percent. 

Despite its high success rate, a vasectomy can fail due to several reasons, such as a surgical error, the snipped tubes reconnecting, or patients' failing to use alternative contraceptive methods immediately after the procedure when sperm could still be present.