Amazingly Confused Couple Sues When Woman Becomes Pregnant After Being Prescribed Prenatal Vitamins Instead Of Birth Control Pills

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shutterstock_62463529I love it when people are confused and instead of taking responsibility for being completely out-to-lunch they decide to sue someone. Just kidding. I don’t love that at all. But if you do – you’re going to love this couple from Wisconsin who blamed an unwanted pregnancy on the clinic that accidentally prescribed prenatal vitamins instead of birth control pills.

Shelby Neil and her child’s father Austin Omernick tried to sue the clinic for damages and the cost of raising their child. From MSN news:

In the lawsuit, filed in 2010, Nell said she received prenatal vitamins instead of birth control pills when she went to have her prescription filled in February 2009. She said a clinic doctor confirmed the pills were actually vitamins more than a month after she received them, but by then she already was pregnant. She delivered a healthy boy that December, her second son.


Admittedly, it’s bad when a doctor prescribes the wrong thing. In some cases, it can be lethal. In this case it wasn’t though, as prenatal vitamins are pretty gross but can’t kill you. Is anyone wondering the same thing that I’m wondering? How in the heck did this woman actually believe that the horse pill that is a prenatal vitamin was actually a birth control pill? Birth control pills are little bitty things that come in a cute little package. Am I wrong about this? Are there birth control pills in existence that aren’t the size of a Tic-Tac?

The court ruled that a parent must have “undergone an unsuccessful sterilization before he or she can make claims for costs relating to raising a child from an unwanted pregnancy.” The appeals court said the couple could recover damages “for pain and suffering during and after her pregnancy, loss of future earning capacity and postpartum depression.”

I know what you may be thinking – it’s not her fault the clinic prescribed her the wrong pills. It’s not her fault that she became pregnant with a child she does not want. But to that, all I can say is – doesn’t anyone value common sense anymore? For the love of God and everything holy – birth control pills and prenatal vitamins look and taste nothing alike. And birth control pills have never turned my pee a strange fluorescent color. It’s not like these were a couple of teenagers who didn’t know better. They are adults with other children. I’m sorry, but I don’t think they can place the blame on anyone but themselves.

And I seriously hope their child never Googles this whole fiasco.

(photo: jcjgphotography/


  1. VanCan

    February 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    The pharmacy was “confused” and you’re advocating that “instead of taking responsibility for being completely out-to-lunch”, they should be let off the hook. You’re saying the parents are the only ones to blame, that they should have known to recognize different medications? What about the people who went to school to learn to recognize and dispense different medications: the pharmacists? It was their incompetence that set these events in motion.

    Thousands of people are made ill and some die every year because of pharmacy errors. In this case, a baby resulted. It could have been much, much worse. What if it had been a pregnant woman prescribed prenatal vitamins and they gave her something that would have been harmful to her fetus? Would you be chortling and saying “You couldn’t recognize that wasn’t a vitamin?! Stupid!”

    I’m not a legal expert and I have no idea whether the damages they’re asking for are realistic, but the tone of your article is cruel.

    • Stina Wargo Kolling

      February 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      How was the pharmacist who filled the order supposed to know that the woman went in wanting birth control? He gets a slip of paper, he puts the medicine in the bag, he says “here you go.” He doesn’t drill the lady on her “expectations”. At least, mine don’t. Kinda glad they don’t. “Hey, it says here you’re looking for something for your cold sore. Do you have herpes? Did you want cold sore medication? Cause this is for mouth herpes. I’m just checking. Maybe you wanted yeast infection medication instead, I dunno.”

    • Tea

      February 2, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      I think the issue becomes if the slip of paper explicitly said a birth control chemical, and the pharmacist fetched the wrong one. I can’t quote tell from the article if this was a pharmacy error (Right info, wrong meds) or a doctor’s prescription error (wrong meds all together)

      If this was a pharmacy error, they have every right to be upset with the pharmacist, because it could have been a disaster (and may still be for them)

    • lea

      February 3, 2013 at 1:12 am

      “He gets a slip of paper, he puts the medicine in the bag, he says “here you go.””

      I find that quite surprising, but maybe the rules are different in the US to here in Australia? I’m not sure.

      My experience is that the pharmacist will tell me what the medication is, how and when to take it, as well as asking if I’m taking anything else. Even if I am buying over the counter meds without a script.

      Even when I was filling a repeat script for the pill. They’d say “here is your birth control pill, have you taken this medication before?”.

    • JAN

      February 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

      If this was a pharmacy misfill, they would be suing the pharmacy. This was a case of the clinic prescribing an incorrect medication (you can google for the court transcripts and this becomes more apparent). This is why it is important to accept counseling at the pharmacy when it’s offered (and ask if it is not) and to always read the label and clarify any directions. If your pharmacist isn’t happy to do this, find another pharmacy and consider reporting that pharmacist to management or the state board of pharmacy.

  2. Aja Dorsey Jackson

    February 3, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Sure the mom “should have” noticed something was awry, but you mean to tell me that between the pharmacist and the prescribing doctor, both people that go to school for years and years and get paid to make sure, among other things, that people get the right medicine, shouldn’t be held accountable in any way? I don’t necessarily think they should be required to help pay for raising their child, but this is still negligence at best.

    Last year I went to a pharmacy to pick up medicine for my daughter for bronchitis. When I got home and took it out of the bag, something just felt off with the instructions on the bottle; they didn’t match what I remembered my dr. saying. I went back up to the pharmacy to make sure that the instructions were correct, and lo and behold, after some investigation they realized they had given my daughter the wrong medicine–completely wrong. Thankfully I realized that it was wrong, and it taught me the lesson that we have to always be diligent about checking, but had I not come to that realization, and my daughter gotten sick, would it have been my fault for not recognizing the name of some medicine I’ve never heard of, or the fault of those who are licensed and trusted not to make these kinds of mistakes? Should she have known better, sure, but its unfair to act like she’s the only “idiot” in this situation.

    And one last thing…Unlike with my daughter, with my son I had very small, non-horse-pill-like prenatals. I don’t know if the technology changed in the 10 yrs between my son and my daughter, but it is possible.

  3. Ellie

    February 3, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Perhaps it is important to stress again how essential it is to read the brochure you get with any med you buy/get as prescription. Not only because of possible side effects, dosage , etc.

    Now, if this form of “birth control pill” was new to her, why didn’t she read the leaflet?

  4. Fabel

    February 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Uhh. Well no, the mistake wasn’t “lethal” but it did manufacture a completely OPPOSITE result from what this woman was trying to (not?) achieve.

  5. Alice Longworth

    February 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I’m not saying that the unwilling parents had no responsibility or that it was lawsuit worthy, but your deriding the couple, and particularly your reasoning, indicate you are looking at this from your own experiences and from a rather privileged view.

    The linked article did not indicate the age or education of the couple. I am in my mid-40s; I have never seen a prenatal vitamin. Yes, this couple had been pregnant before, BUT that assumes they had access to/knew about appropriate health care. (Sadly in this day & age, some young women do not see a doctor until delivery or very close to the time.) Also, if they are younger/less educated, they are probably more likely to do what a Dr. tells them to do without asking questions.

    And why do you assume that they know what b.c. pills look like? Between abstinence only education and options such as condoms, IUDs, and insertable medicated rings, it is foolish to assume that this couple has seen/used birth control pills.

    • SusannahJoy

      February 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      I’ve read a few other articles about this, and they said that it was her normal prescription for BC that she’d been on for at least a year, and that she noticed that the pills didn’t look the same, but was too embarrassed to ask about it. While she was right (in my opinion) to sue for being given the wrong drugs, asking for the pharmacy to pay for all the child’s needs is pretty extravagant, especially because she knew that she wasn’t given her normal pills. The pharmacy screwed up, which could have been fatal, and absolutely should be punished, but everyone should be responsible enough to know what they’re putting into their body, and to ask questions. I’ve never once been given a prescription without being told what it was, and at the very least, asked if I’ve taken it before. And it says quite clearly on the bottle what it is, and how to take it. She was given pills that didn’t look right, and without reading the label, or asking a question, or even listening when they gave it to her, decided to take it anyway? That’s on her.

  6. Anon13

    February 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I’m pretty surprised at all the people on here defending this couple, especially the ones who are calling it some kind of “privilege” issue. Is this what we have become, a country so dumbed down that we now have to assume that everyone who lives here is grotesquely stupid, and that their stupidity is some kind of disability that must be catered to like a physical limitation? I’m sorry, but even if you get your medication at a clinic like Planned Parenthood instead of at a pharmacy, the bottle clearly states what the medication actually is. Medicine does not come in a plain brown wrapper with no information on it at all. If your doctor gives you medication that says something different than it usually does, and looks completely different from the medication you have been taking for a year, how about don’t put it in your mouth until you ask someone about it? I don’t buy the “too embarrassed” line, either. Obviously, she was adult enough to go to a clinic and request birth control from a doctor, but she was “too embarrassed” to question him when the pills looked different? Honestly, the only thing pitiable about this whole scenario is the fact that these people have bread. (Apparently, more than once.)

    • anm

      February 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      what does their carb intake have to do with this?

  7. Tinyfaeri

    February 3, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    “Is anyone wondering the same thing that I’m wondering?”
    Yep, I did. Birth control pills and prenatal vitamins look nothing like each other. The packaging looks nothing alike. From other articles, she was taking the pills for a while, and noticed they were completely different but chose not to say anything. Or, you know, ask why they looked completely different. While she should receive some compensation for the clinic’s mistake, she should definitely take some responsibility. It doesn’t take a medical degree to tell when the pill you’ve been on for over a year all of a sudden looks nothing like it used to and has a totaly different name on the bottle (and is in a bottle, not a little compact, case or blister pack).

  8. northwoodsgirl

    February 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I know people are saying that the pharmacist made a mistake but I highly doubt that. I’ve worked in a pharmacy for many years and the probability of mistaking the two is pretty low. BC comes in pretty little packs of little tiny pills. If this was filled at a pharmacy, it was most likely doctor error. You don’t really have reason to question why someone is recieving PNV when they’ve been on BC for a year. People switch all the time. However, I have seen this a thousand times.

    Patient: “My dr called in a new RX.”

    Pharmacist: “Let me tell you about it.”
    Patient: ” I don’t have time. I know what it is and what it’s for.” (grabs the Rx and walks away)
    Or the patient just plays with their cell phone while the pharmacist shows them their Rx.

    I know pharmacies can and have made mistakes. Most are caught while the prescription is being filled. Some are caught at the window. And unfortunately, some make it home. But the likelihood of this being a pharmacy error is pretty low.

    • AP

      February 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      CVS also puts a description of the drug on the printed-out label, so if the mistake happens in the fetching stage, it helps the patient identify it. So if you are supposed to get, say, “blister pack of 28 pills” and you get “jar of 100 giant pills,” you know the pharmacy made a mistake.

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