Karen Collins is working to change Virginia law after a hospital experience during which she said she felt violated.
Five years ago, at the age of 37, Collins lost her ability to ever have a child again through a surrogate, when she said a doctor forced her into surgically induced menopause without her consent.
"If I wanted to make that choice for myself in the future I had that available to me, and he took that away from me," Collins said.
Collins family photo
Collins, who lives in Caroline County, said in early 2018 she started having right-side pelvic pain.
She worried it might be her chronic endometriosis resurfacing, which had resulted in the removal of her right ovary and uterus by her gynecologist in 2016.
She consented to that surgery.
"Yes, I had agreed to that. It was clearly listed on my consent form. I had discussed it thoroughly with the doctor," Collins said.
But by 2018, she said a CT scan showed she could have chronic appendicitis, so she decided to have her appendix removed by a general surgeon.
She also formed a plan with her gynecologist to have him participate in the surgery.
"Once he got in there, if he could visually see that there was any endometriosis that was attributing to the right side pain I was experiencing, he would go ahead and take care of that as well," Collins said.
Prior to the surgery, she signed an operation consent form where she authorized her gynecologist to perform a select few procedures.
But, when she awoke after surgery, she learned her gynecologist had removed her only remaining ovary.
"That's not what we discussed. It wasn't what was planned. It wasn't what I wanted to happen to me, and he made that decision without my permission," Collins said.
Collins suddenly stopped producing hormones, which forced her into immediate surgically induced menopause.
"Within a few days of the surgery the hot flashes, the night sweats, of course, that causes insomnia," Collins said. "You feel kind of like you're losing your mind."
Her husband said he immediately noticed a change.
"It's been traumatic. Before this happened, my wife was a very outgoing, very social person. Since then she has had a hard time even interacting with our kids, our friends," Kevin Collins said.
Why did the doctor remove the ovary?
After the family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, the case went to trial in Civil Court.
During testimony, Collins’ gynecologist acknowledged it was not the plan to take that ovary, but because of its appearance, and the 2 centimeters of necrotic tissue on the exterior of the ovary, he "didn’t feel comfortable leaving it in there."
He also said he felt the condition that he saw needed to be addressed right then and there, though he admitted that Collins' life was not in danger at that time.
The hospital consent form Collins signed does say that during the course of the procedure, unforeseen conditions may be revealed that necessitate an extension of the original procedure or a different procedure and that the signee authorizes and requests the doctor to perform procedures "as necessary and desirable" if deemed to be in my best interest.
"It's what makes her a woman, and it was taken from her and it's not right. It should have been her choice," Kevin Collins said.
"I felt violated, someone that I trusted for so many years just violated me to a level where I really didn't know how to comprehend that," Karen Collins said.
The jury ruled in favor of the doctor.
Now, Collins is pushing for legislative change.
She wants a bill passed that would require women to be provided with information about what exactly will happen if they have their reproductive organs removed and would require doctors to obtain specific written consent for such a procedure.
"There would be no question. A woman would have to put it in writing that she fully understands what will happen if reproductive organs are removed, that she has been provided information about risks and benefits, and that she provides expressed consent in written form," Collins said.
This story was originally published by Melissa Hipolit at Scripps News Richmond.