I am sure some of you have already heard the lawsuit against an obstetrician who treated a woman in labor having her 5th baby horribly, so badly in fact that it caused her emotional trauma. I've written about rude and condescending things I've personally witnessed or heard about, but nothing compares to what is alleged in this particular suit.
The original story broke in the Chicago Tribune. The following comment is from Kathy:
I just read the story originally printed in the Chicago Tribune about how one doctor allegedly abused a patient because he was angry at her for not calling him before going to the hospital. (You can click on the link for the allegations, but they include denying her request for an epidural for hours, not allowing her to speak [even to ask questions], making her lie in stirrups in an extremely uncomfortable position for hours, telling her in no uncertain terms that she was going to hemorrhage, and suturing her without anesthetic.)While I am extremely upset at even the possibility of something like this happening, I wonder if there is anything that the woman or her husband could have done to stop this. Assuming all of the allegations are true, what could the woman have done while in labor to have kept this from happening? Could she have requested another doctor? Could the nurse have done something? Surely there was *something* that could have been done. While people like me can get angry at such treatment, I would like to go deeper than that and work at preventing that, rather than just "file suit afterward" if something like this happens.-Kathy
Kathy, you ask such good questions. I can answer these questions as if it happened to anyone, and what women can do in situations where they feel they are treated with a lack of respect, not given analgesia or anesthesia when requested but it would have been safe to give, or generally feel as though they are not given any choice in their care. I can't answer specifically in regards to this particular story in regards to what this woman and her husband could have done, but I think it would be helpful to discuss what any woman and her support people can do in such situations.
First off- much of what can prevent this sort of situation is education. I've written plenty on the importance of educating oneself on their provider, their philosophy, their partners and philosophies, the hospital or birth setting, and the process of labor and birth and choices available to them during that time. (Sorry, you'll have to search my archives for these posts because I am really lazy and not linking these days). Knowing what is considered "normal" labor and birth, what the policies and procedures are in your chosen birth setting, and how your provider and their covering partners "manage"or approach birth. This can help prepare you for what to expect, as well as knowing if will even be comfortable with what you desire.
In a hospital, there are always "back up" providers. Even in small community hospitals, there will always be someone else on stand-by call in case all hell breaks loose, or if the covering provider falls dead, or whatever. Larger places may even have a second provider in the hospital. So, if you do not like the provider caring for you because they are being disrespectful, performing interventions without asking permission, declining requests for pain medication, or otherwise you can always ask to have that provider take over.
But, and its a big but, is that before you get to this, start asking questions. For instance, why can't you have pain medication if you are requesting it? There may be a very good question as to why its being declined. For instance, anticipated delivery will occur in a time frame where it may not be safe for baby, or in the case of an epidural it may be because there are no anesthesiologists available at that time and you will deliver in 10 minutes. If a provider says, "You need XYZ" and starts to just do it, you have the right to say, "Can we discuss this first?" Things to ask when presented with procedures or interventions are:
- Why is this being recommended?
- What are the risks to myself and my baby?
- What are the benefits?
- What could happen if we didn't do this?
- What are the alternatives?
Then you can ask for time to discuss it over with your support people in private. The only time I can think of where this is likely not going to happen is cases of true emergencies- like prolonged fetal bradycardia (baby's heart rate drops and doesn't come up), major maternal hemorrhage (you're bleeding out like a sieve), or the umbilical cord hangs our your vagina, for instance.
If you can not get answers to your questions, you can ask for the second provider. You can even state that you do not like how you are being spoken to if you feel its disrespectful. You can speak with your nurse as they are also your advocate. And if you don't feel like you can personally do this, have your support people ready to step in.
Remember, as the patient you have the right to informed consent, informed decision making, the ability to say no, and the right to ask for another care provider that you feel would better fit your needs and treat you safely and with respect.
As a follow up, contact the hospital's patient services/patient advocacy department, risk management, the department director (both nursing and obstetrical), or even the president/CEO- if not all of them.
This sort of stuff angers me, too, and I've been pretty fortunate not to see what was alleged in the lawsuit. I have seen things that are disrespectful, or comments that leave a woman feeling inadequate on occasion, but fortunately not often and not to the degree this lawsuit mentions. I hope my tips and thoughts are helpful.