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.