Medical Essay on Dalkon Shield

Published: 2021-07-05
660 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Vanderbilt University
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The Dalkon Shield is an intrauterine contraceptive device that was used in birth control in the early 1970s. The device was owned and distributed by A.H Robins Company to an estimated 2.5 million women in a four-year period within which it operated. As many as 200,000 American women testified of injuries inflicted on them by the device and filed claims against the company, (Freedman, p 511). The perception of the company, which is the defendant and the lawyers for these women, the plaintiff, about the scientific data on the shield vary. The lawyers claim that the device was dreadfully dangerous, leading to serious pelvic infections which resulted in infertility or even death. The Robins Company argues that the shield was no more or less dangerous than any other intrauterine contraceptive device and that most of the pelvic inflammatory diseases that occur in women are not related to the shield. These two arguments are perceived to have merit according to scientists at the Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. This discussion will, therefore, examine this case by the values that drive the decisions of each party to the case.

The main players, in this case, are the users of the shield, who are the women who used the device, and the Robins Company which distributed the product. Both players were driven by different interests in this case. The users interest is the need to effectively control pregnancy with the best method that poses the least risk. In the case of the shield, massive marketing had been done using Dr. Davis publication which gave a positive message on the effectiveness of the device with a reported pregnancy rate of 1.1%. This made many women adopt it, as well as other physicians who purchased it and inserted on their patients. The report, however, had skipped important details such as the time frame the data was collected or the age structure of the population used in the study. The 1.1% pregnancy rate per year would later be disputed in a report showing 5.3% rate, nearly five times worse than the Davis earlier report, (Roepke, Clare and Eric, p 996). The Robins Company was driven by the interest to make massive sales. They were less concerned with the safety of their clients despite having information that challenged the safety of the device. They did not care to explain to their customers the full details of the device, and this led to the enormous damage on the users.

The womens decision can be seen as the best they could have made given that they had no additional information of the device other than that provided in the Davis publication. On the other hand, Robins decision to continue selling the product even with the knowledge of its dangers shows negligence and acts of greed to make profit at the expense of health safety of its customers. By doing so, the interests of the company were being served while those of the users were being neglected. At the beginning with the massive sales, the company was doing well but would eventually suffer bankruptcy following the lawsuits by its customers. The women also suffered from infections with others such as Tetuan having their uterus removed. The regulations at the time provided sufficient remedy but would only be effected once breach had occurred.

In conclusion, this case informs us of the need to better our engineers. The damage inflicted on both parties could have been avoided if the right procedures of making the shield had been followed. The company on learning the defects of the device should have taken remedial measures to prevent injury on its clients and the eventual damage that struck the company.

Works Cited

Freedman, Helen E. "Selected Ethical Issues in Asbestos Litigation." Sw. UL Rev. 37 (2008): 511.

Roepke, Clare L., and Eric A. Schaff. "Long tail strings: impact of the Dalkon Shield 40 years later." Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 4.16 (2014): 996.

Trussell, James. "Understanding contraceptive failure." Best practice & research Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 23.2 (2009): 199-209.

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