Po Leung ... "My health care professionals ... profoundly betrayed me while I was at my most vulnerable"
It sounds like a story from a soap opera: there’s the high of a much-wanted pregnancy, the lows of infidelity, and a sudden, tragic, turn of events. But for one woman, it’s very much real life.
Her name is Po Leung, and she’s from Ontario, Canada. Leung and her partner, Stuart Westcott, had been together for a year when they started trying for a baby. When it didn’t happen naturally, they turned to IVF.
From the start of the treatment, staff at the fertility centre – including their main point of contact, a nurse named Wendy Shanks – emphasised that Leung should try to remain stress-free. She took a step back in her career and moved to an office closer to the clinic, to reduce travel times.
“I moved to Markham to eliminate commuting stress as the key to fertility is to have less stress in your life. I thought that would give me the best shot. This [IVF] was my last chance.”
Finally, after three years and $60,000 worth of IVF treatments, Leung got the news she’d been waiting to hear: she was pregnant.
“"It was one of the best days of my life,” the 44-year-old said of that exciting day in March, 2010. “I was thrilled.”
But Leung’s excitement was short-lived; the next day, Westcott told her he was ending their relationship. He said he’d met someone else.
It was, Leung said, the worse day of her life.
“I confronted him but he didn't give [the identity of his mistress] right away … he said she was the most special person, the kindest, most compassionate person he had ever met. He was enthralled,” she said.
“He said, ‘You can raise this baby yourself’. But I’d thought we wanted to do this together. I was in complete disbelief, shock ... catatonic.
“I remember saying ‘don’t do this, not right now’. I really wanted to give this baby the best chance but he just left, and was gone for hours.”
Then came the next bombshell: Westcott had been having an affair with their nurse at the fertility clinic, Wendy Shanks. Leung could barely believe it.
“We trusted everything she said. She portrayed herself as happily married with two kids,” she said.
“She told me both her kids are from fertility treatments, that she knew how hard it is, and not to give up. She said her husband and her were still paying off their [IVF] loans.”
Tragically, two weeks later, a shattered Leung lost her much-wanted baby.
Hurt and angry, Leung launched a lawsuit against Shanks, the fertility centre, and the facility's director. She says that when she told the director, Dr Colette Pyselman, about Shanks’s affair with her partner, she had acted improperly – instead of investigating her claims or taking any disciplinary action, Dr Pyselman only cared about saving the reputation of Shanks and the clinic.
"That's what really hurt me the most - that my health-care professionals, a nurse and a doctor, had so profoundly betrayed me while I was at my most vulnerable," Leung told Sun News.
Leung is seeking $400,000 in damages for breach of duty, negligence and infliction of mental distress. The lawsuit claims that Shanks "abused her position of power, trust and influence as her medical care provider", and exploited that position to pursue a relationship with Westcott.
"Shanks intentionally used Po's private medical treatment and information as an excuse to repeatedly contact Stuart and foster an intimate relationship with him, without Po's knowledge or permission," the statement of claim says.
The case has been given the green light to proceed by the local court.
Leung’s lawyer told The Toronto Sun that this could be a landmark case, “since it may develop the law, including the standard of care owed by fertility clinic and medical professionals to their patients.”
While no amount of money can bring Leung her baby back, or the relationship she once had with Westcott, we can only hope that she finds love and much happiness in her future.