Culture & Cosmos: Volume 1, Number 15
About Medicine & Morality
Sixteen Year Old New Zealand Girl May Have Died from Contraceptive Use
November 11, 2003
A New Zealand coroner issued a report this week that says the suspicious death of a teenage girl a year ago may have been caused by the contraceptive pill called Estelle 35D.
It was reported in the New Zealand Herald that at the end, Stacey Bindle was lying on her bed "convulsed and frightened, unaware that a small but deadly blood clot was slowly traveling to her lungs." The girl's mother said her daughter was calling out "in a scared little voice," that she "could not breath." Four hours later Stacey Brindle was dead.
Her parents say Stacey was not sexually active but that she went to the Hamilton Family Planning Clinic to get Estelle 35D to treat mild acne. The Clinic is not legally bound to inform parents of dispensing potentially life-threatening drugs to minors and so gave the girl the prescription, which led to her death. Contraceptives are routinely handed out to adolescent girls in the developing world, but also in the US and the EU, frequently without parental consent.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health announced more than a year ago that women taking Estelle 35D and another contraceptive pill called Diane 35/35D should visit their doctor "after studies showed women taking them have an increased risk of blood clots." Estelle and Diane contraceptive pills contain "oestrogen and cyproterone acetate," which researchers believe can lead to blood clotting.
Given the risks involved, and that the belief that girl was likely not told of health risks associated with taking the contraceptive drug, the Bindles may join what is a growing trend of law suits against contraceptive manufacturers. Five hundred women in the United Kingdom and 200 women in Sweden have sued manufacturers over the health risks attendant to the use of contraceptive pills.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, "61% of reproductive-age women who practice contraception use reversible methods such as oral contraceptives or the condom." Guttmacher also reports that out of "2.7 million teenage women (sic) who use contraceptives, 44% -- more than 1 million women - rely on the pill" and that he pill "is the method most widely used by women in their 20s."
These particular drugs are not yet available in the United States, though the contraceptives used here also pose health risks. Even so, it is relatively easy to obtain Estelle and Diane simply by shopping on-line with a credit card.
The report on Stacey Bindle's death comes on the heels of the recent report that 18-year old Holly Patterson of Livermore, California died after taking the abortion pill RU-486, a death that has initiated Congressional action to ban the drug.
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