NIGHTMARE: Women and the Dalkon Shield by Susan and Jim Dawson Perry

NIGHTMARE: Women and the Dalkon Shield

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In 1970 the A.H. Robins Company, hoping to capitalize on a new wave of anti-pill publicity, purchased the fight to manufacture and sell the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device. Six months later, Robins began a national marketing campaign for the Shield, despite a lack of reliable research supporting the safety and efficacy of the device. What followed was truly a nightmare: a corporate Watergate complete with crusading plaintiffs' attorneys, a maverick judge, and a born-again in-house lawyer for Robins who was to come forth 10 years after being ordered to destroy incriminating files with a guilty conscience and a manila envelope full of incriminating documents. Behind it all--the thousands of women who were severely injured and rendered infertile by infections or septic abortions attributable to the Shield. Due to extensive and centralized discovery (the process by which opposing litigants review each other's potential evidence in advance of trial) and the number of trials which continue to take place, the Dalkon Shield story is probably one of the best documented cases of its kind, and Perry and Dawson have done a fine job of tracing the various subplots here, finding no heroes along the way: the FDA had the opportunity to reclassify the Shield (from device to drug) making it subject to regulatory control but preferred to wait (six years, as it turned out) for Congress to enact badly needed legislation permitting it to regulate devices in general. Perry and Dawson do a good job of marshalling the facts and telling the story, interspersing it with the first-person horror stories of a number of Shield victims that are somehow never as moving as we know they ought to be. What really starts the emotions churning is the evidence of massive bureaucratic and corporate indifference to their fate, and the fates of others like them--the sheer numbers light the blaze here. Short on suspense and courtroom drama (for those, turn to Engelmayer and Wagman's Lord's Justice), but a comprehensive, readable chronicle of a course of events that should never have happened and, now that it has, should not be allowed back under the rug.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1985
Publisher: Macmillan