In a landmark ongoing New York medical malpractice case, a Bronx woman claims that she was forced to undergo a Cesarean section against her will while delivering her third child in 2011. The mother claims that she suffered pain and permanent damage to her bladder from the unwanted surgery.
While this is a novel claim, most medical malpractice/birth injury cases relate to harm that occurs because a physician waits too long to start a c-section.
Background of the case
The plaintiff in this case, underwent C-sections with the deliveries of two prior children. Each surgery resulted in complications and months of painful recovery. For her third child, she wanted to deliver naturally (known as a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean, or VBAC), so she chose Staten Island University Hospital. The facility has a significantly lower rate of C-sections than the average around the state (18.7 percent compared to 34.4 percent).
Upon arriving at the hospital to deliver, Dray says that hostile staff immediately started pressuring her to have a C-section. The physician in charge allegedly said “I don’t have all day for you,” and she claims other medical team members made similar statements, including “you’ve already had two before, why not another one.”
Dray admits that her labor was lengthy (more than a full day passed), but claims she begged doctors for more time to attempt a natural delivery even as they were wheeling her into the operating room. The hospital admits they forced the C-section upon her against her express wishes, but claim that it was for the benefit of her unborn baby.
This case is ongoing, with expert opinions on both sides arguing as to why this policy does or does not rise to the level of medical malpractice. Another issue is whether it is legal or ethical for a facility to compel a laboring mother to undergo major surgery without her consent.
When a baby should have been delivered by c-section
This is a tough issue, especially when a surgery occurs against a patient’s wishes. When it becomes clear that a baby’s life or the patient's life is at risk because of a continued insistence on VBAC, what is required of a doctor?
Before agreeing to a VBAC, a patient could be asked to sign an advance consent form that authorizes a c-section if the doctor believes it is necessary to protect the patient or her baby. This would resolve the problem presented in the case.
How do you know if a birth injury or complication from an unwanted surgery might amount to malpractice? No substitute exists for individualized legal advice from an experienced medical malpractice attorney; schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns as soon as possible.