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N.W.T. doctor denies sterilizing woman without her consent

A doctor in the Northwest Territories is denying allegations that he permanently sterilized a woman from Tuktoyaktuk without her consent during a medical procedure.

Dr. Andrew Kotaska is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit and award him costs

Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife. A woman from Tuktoyaktuk has filed a lawsuit alleging that an N.W.T. doctor permanently sterilized her without her consent in the fall of 2019. The doctor denies those allegations. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

A doctor in the Northwest Territories is denying allegations that he permanently sterilized a woman from Tuktoyaktuk without her consent during a medical procedure. 

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, the woman alleges that during surgery to address a painful cyst on her right ovary, Dr. Andrew Kotaska removed both her right and left ovaries and both fallopian tubes, rendering her sterile.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. CBC is not naming the woman due to the private nature of the allegations.

The woman first became Kotaska's patient in 2019, when she was seeking treatment for abdominal and pelvic pain.

In a statement of defence filed in the Northwest Territories Supreme Court this week, Kotaska, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said he planned to operate on the woman to remove her right fallopian tube. 

But he said he explained to her there could be complications during the surgery which "might justify further surgical interventions" in order to address her pelvic pain. 

When she signed the consent form, Kotaska said the woman had been told that "circumstances that might arise during the course of the surgery might justify departure from the procedures specifically identified," and that she gave her informed consent.

Kotaska also said the woman told him twice she did not want to have any more children.

This contradicts the woman's claim. She said she told Kotaska that she and her husband did not want permanent birth control and were considering having more children.

During the surgery, Kotaska said he determined that the woman had "pelvic congestion syndrome which ultimately would benefit from the removal of both fallopian tubes."

A file photo of Dr. Andrew Kotaska. (Submitted by Dr. Andrew Kotaska)

He said the treatment for pelvic congestion syndrome, "combined with the two assurances that her childbearing years were over," led him to believe that removing both her fallopian tubes and therefore rendering her sterile was "in the patient's best interests."

According to the woman's claim, the anesthesiologist who was present later noted that during the surgery, Kotaska said, "Let's see if I can find a reason to take the left tube."

In his statement of defence, Kotaska specifically denies saying that.

He's asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, and is seeking costs against the woman "on an elevated scale," because of "malicious and untrue allegations of racial bias … with the intent of damaging [his] reputation."

With files from Avery Zingel

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