NY hospital sued over forced c-section

A lawsuit was filed last month against Staten Island University Hospital and an OB/GYN practice there. The suit has grabbed attention for its focus on patient rights to autonomy and informed consent, rights that can be difficult to define and difficult for institutions to uphold, especially when a fetus is involved.

The woman who filed the lawsuit had had two previous c-sections and wanted to have a vaginal birth for her third delivery. While at the hospital in labor, she refused a repeat c-section but was forced to have one anyway; she suffered a lacerated bladder as a consequence of the surgery.

The lawsuit, filed by Rinat Dray and the law offices of Silverstein and Bast against the hospital and Drs. Gorelik and Ducey and their practice, alleges five “causes of action.”

Ordinary negligence. The hospital staff provided medical care that was negligent and caused injury. They took Dray against her will to have a c-section, did not consult the hospital’s bioethics committee or provide a patient advocate, failed to transfer her to a hospital that would allow a vaginal delivery, and pressured and threatened her.

Medical malpractice. The actions described above constituted a “departure from good and accepted medical practice.”

Lack of informed consent. The doctors did not talk to Dray about the risks and benefits of the procedure or alternatives, including non-treatment. This item also states that a “reasonably prudent person” in Dray’s position would not have chosen to have a c-section if fully informed.

Statutory violation. The New York State Patient’s Bill of Rights Statute states that a patient may refuse treatment, and the doctors violated this statute by disregarding her refusal.

Punitive damages. The doctors consulted a lawyer before overriding Dray’s refusal to undergo a c-section and then made a conscious decision to violate her patient’s rights. This item states that “the defendants’ actions were wanton, willful, contumacious, reckless, and shocks [sic] the conscience, entitling the plaintiffs to punitive damages.”

The document, available here, also contains a page stating that the lawyer consulted with a doctor to make sure there was reasonable basis for the allegation of malpractice.

The defendants – that is, the hospital and the two doctors – have twenty days from April 11th, the date of the summons, to serve an answer.

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About investigatingbirth

My investigations of birth began in 2009 when I was trained as a doula. I helped women consider the evidence on common interventions, and helped them prepare for the physical and emotional challenge of giving birth. After some time it became clear to me that there was another type of challenge that I was unable to adequately prepare them for, the challenge of the maternity system. But it was only after my own traumatic birth in 2013 that I realized how little I had understood. I began to ask questions that few around me - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors - were comfortable hearing. Questions like: Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, do doctors not practice informed consent? How do hospitals deal with other patient populations vulnerable to abuse? How does loss of professional autonomy, for obstetricians, and professional authority, for midwives, impact the quality of care they are capable of providing - regardless of their training? This blog will collect noteworthy information that attempts to answer these and other questions. Most of what you see here will be aggregated from other sources and analyzed. You will also see original interviews, and the occasional opinion piece or personal story, as I try to piece together a clear picture of the system in which American women give birth.
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One Response to NY hospital sued over forced c-section

  1. Pingback: Submit your story to break the silence | Investigating Birth

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