Onetime Colorado resident Karen Langhart devoted the last few years of her life campaigning against NuvaRing, a contraceptive device she blamed for the death of her beloved daughter, Erika Langhart, who grew up in Durango, as well as other hormonal contraceptives she saw as dangerous.
But while the NuvaRing fight isn't over, her part in it is.
Last week, Karen, 56, who'd been living in Arizona, took her own life shortly before sending nearly forty packages to friends, including some in the Durango area. The mailings featured letters that explained her actions.
“By the time you receive this note I will have joined Erika,” a letter obtained by the Durango Herald reads. “I consider it an honor to give my life, as so many others have since the dawn of time, to help save the lives of others.”
The introduction to a Langhart-penned piece published in October on the Hormones Matter website gives an overview of what happened to Erika and the subsequent efforts to affix responsibility upon Merck, the company that makes NuvaRing.
Erika Langhart was planning to make a difference in the world. She was never given that chance.
At just 24 years old Erika was struck down by a massive, double pulmonary embolism (blood clots that had traveled to her lungs), as a direct result (per her pulmonologist) of the NuvaRing. Investigative journalist, Marie Brenner, wrote an in-depth report (“Danger in the Ring”) for Vanity Fair magazine about Erika and her classmate at American University, and Olympic Athlete, Megan Henry regarding the dangers of this drug.
CNN Anderson Cooper 360 was subsequently inspired to air a special report: Families, lawsuits, raise questions about NuvaRing.
It is our greatest hope, with what remains of our lives, to fulfill our daughter’s goal of making a difference in the lives of others by helping to inform women about the dangers of not only the NuvaRing; but all hormonal contraceptive drugs — the pill, patch, ring and implants. We believe women deserve to be informed of the full truth about these powerful drugs.
Erika Langhart’s Case for Wrongful Death was dismissed on September 10, 2015 because we refused to settle with Merck. We never agreed to anything other than having her case heard in front of a jury for the purpose of exposing the truth about the NuvaRing and Merck.
As part of Karen's consciousness-raising efforts, she created a website called InformedChoiceForAmErika.com, whose landing page features photos of young women whose deaths were allegedly linked to hormonal contraception use.
Here's the image of Erika....
...followed by three more examples:
While Karen is gone, her message continues to resonate in pieces such as this essay published last year by the Guardian newspaper.
It fills us with horror to think of all the women out there using NuvaRing and other risky hormonal contraceptives because they think there is no alternative for them but an unplanned pregnancy. If you are using it, please take the time to consider the ParaGard copper IUD, barrier methods, and the support of fertility-awareness methods.
We believe it is doing a huge disservice to women when media reports written about the risks of hormonal contraceptives end with the minimising message that it is more dangerous to be pregnant. This scares women into not exploring their options, and stops them from worrying enough to at least research the symptoms they need to look out for — information that could save lives. We believe the argument that NuvaRing and other hormonal contraceptives are harmless is dangerous and harmful in itself.
The item concludes: "Our greatest hope is that more lives can be saved by the sharing of honest information."
We send our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Karen Langhart.
Below, see a Durango Herald video, followed by an address given by Karen last year.
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