A New York woman has filed suit against the hospital where she gave birth, as well as the two physicians involved in the delivery, saying they forced her into having a C-section against her will. Rinat Dray, 35, delivered her third son in 2011 at the Staten Island University Hospital, attended by Dr. Leonid Gorelik, who Dray said began encouraging her to have a C-section from the moment she arrived in labor.
Dray had delivered both of her other sons by cesarean section, but this time decided that she wanted to have a vaginal birth, known as a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC. She did not want to have a third C-section due to the aftereffects of the surgery. Dray is suing for malpractice, charging the hospital and the physicians with improperly substituting the judgment of the physician for that of the mother, and threatening and pressuring her to have the operation. According to court papers, Dray’s bladder was cut during the surgery.
After several hours of labor, Dray was taken to the operating room and the baby delivered surgically, over her protestations. She said that Gorelik told her she was at risk of rupturing her uterus, endangering both her and the baby. She also said that the doctor told her that if she refused the surgery it was the same as child abuse, and her baby would be taken away from her. Hospital records show that the legal department approved the surgery, and Gorelik wrote in Dray’s chart that he had decided to override her decision to have a C-section, although he claims he did not force her.
The lawsuit against the hospital raises questions about the rights of women to refuse having a C-section birth forced on them. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is very clear about the issue. Their ethics committee says it cannot imagine a situation in which it would be acceptable to force a woman into a surgery that she did not want, even if the doctors believe it is in the best interest of the baby. A National Advocates for Pregnant Women staff attorney, Farah Diaz-Tello, said no law exists that says pregnant women lose the right to make their own decisions about their medical care, or lose this right at any point during their pregnancy, including during labor and delivery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the rate should not be higher than 10-15 percent, say cesarean deliveries make up nearly 33 percent of births in the U.S. The number of C-section births has been increasing since 1996 in spite of warnings that they are more likely to cause health problems for mother and baby. A rise in high-risk pregnancies has been attributed to the increasing number of surgical births.
The increase in C-sections has been attributed to a variety of reasons, including the desire to schedule convenient deliveries by both mother and doctor. Doctor fear malpractice lawsuits if babies are injured during normal deliveries, which typically take substantially longer than a cesarean birth. Due to the frequency of birth-related lawsuits obstetricians pay the highest malpractice insurance of any physician.
Dray says that she protested having a C-section from the time she arrived at the hospital, all the way to the operating table, where she kept begging not to be forced into the procedure. She said she remembers the doctor telling her, “Don’t speak.”
By Beth A. Balen