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Saturday, February 20, 2010

And you wonder why women don't want to give birth in hospitals ...

'Birth is inherently dangerous,' cries Dr. Amy, an outspoken 'skeptical OB' who seemingly roams the internet, looking for 'birth gone bad' stories in order to fan the flames of panic and worry. Skeptical of what? I wonder. That women can actually give birth without fear, worry and all the other trappings that come with it?

I've been pondering a couple of things lately: namely, again, the death of my great-grandmother, precipitated by my reading Tina Cassidy's book, and a recent visit from my mother. We talked about the physician who delivered my grandmother and again of his disgusting medical practices, even though the word about proper infection control was no doubt spreading faster than a colony of germs. She told me how classmates of hers remembered going to this same doctor for routine shots, and he would use the same needle on both kids.

Gack. No wonder my grandmother died, I thought. I'm partly tempted to use the 'they didn't know any better' defense for some of these a-holes, but yet I'm not sure that's entirely true. I mean, you wouldn't eat dinner with those filthy hands, would you? So why would you deliver some woman's babies with them?!

Dr. Amy wants us to believe that 'birth is inherently dangerous' because we never know what can happen around the corner. Yes, I suppose there is some truth to that. I can't account for every birth disaster or bad outcome, but neither can you compare it to the births of yesteryear (which I think she wants us to do). She relates that women routinely died in childbirth, but makes it sound (maybe not even intentionally) like it was a product of their own doing, a result of their body being 'defective,' rather than admit that many, many bad outcomes were a direct result of improper and inept physician care. (Cassidy cites this in her book, using the example of a well-qualified late 18th century midwife who had very positive outcomes, until a young, inexperienced doctor delivered one of her client's breech babies with fatal results.) She wants us to believe that being in a hospital is the safest place for us to birth our babies, even though we're treated like robots, or processed faster than a new Chevy on an assembly line in Detroit. (Never mind that, with modern obstetrics and interventions, the rate of neonatal death continues to rise in the United States.)

And anymore, it just seems like you can't put all your faith and trust in that guy in the white coat. Just because he has a diploma hanging on the wall doesn't mean he has common sense. In comparing my grandmother's death to medical practices of today, I found the curious 2005 case of Dr. Harvey Finkelstein , a Long Island anesthesiologist who was found guilty of reusing syringes in multi-dose vials, which put thousands of patients at risk for contracting blood-borne illnesses such as hepatitis and AIDS. So, do you want him giving you your epidural? Sadly, it is known that he is not the only doctor to have done this.

Even my dad, who attended my brother's birth in 1982, noticed the doctor arrived basically 'covered in blood' from another delivery and noted that he looked a mess. (Ironically, my brother suffered from severe group B strep after birth.)

But, if you are a health professional who happens to call your doctor on his/her mistakes, you just might get sent to prison for it. Anne Mitchell , a whistleblowing nurse from Texas, wrote an anonymous letter to  her boss, Dr. Rolando Arafiles, Jr. because of what she considered 'unsafe practices.' He promptly fired her. (At her trial, she was acquitted.) (More on the case here , where patients also stood up for the good doctor because 'he saved their lives,' including the town sheriff. It seems like poor Anne had the cards stacked against her from the beginning, maybe.)

Maybe this is why so many OB (and other) nurses don't complain about patient treatment when they work with a doctor notorious for being harassing or aggressive towards pregnant patients. Or, perhaps it's a case of 'if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em.'

We know better now about infection control and safe medical practices, and have countless studies that prove some of the interventions and procedures performed on women might have the opposite effect on them. Yet doctors still blatantly disregard these common sense practices and throw all caution to the wind, often putting countless mothers and babies at risk for no reason.  Is it any wonder why women don't want to give birth in hospitals?