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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Before there was Dr. Biter ...

The big buzz in the birthing community is the latest controversy over Dr. Robert Biter losing his hospital privileges in San Diego, California. But before him, there were others.

Back in 2005, Dr. Colleen Murphy of Anchorage, Alaska came under fire for her low c-section rates, which resulted, ultimately, in a three-year suspension of her medical license. Hospital privileges were also suspended at an Anchorage hospital, and a second hospital - Providence Alaska Medical Center - also revoked her privileges as well, although they reinstated her - and her license - several months later, along with an apology.

Apparently doctors at Alaska Regional Hospital felt she was putting 'patients at risk' by "allowing" women to experience a trial of labor after one or more cesareans. The license suspension was based on ten births attended in 2004, five of which, they claimed, she "failed to meet the minimum standard of care."

I'm curious what the 'minimum standard of care' is. A Pitocin drip for every patient, regardless of need? Premature rupture of membranes for no reason? And it seems that Dr. Murphy was only operating on ACOG Guidelines, that suggest a TOL for most VBAC patients is safer than a repeat cesarean. Obviously those "guidelines" are not followed very much, and were completely ignored in this case.

In the same year, Wilmington, NC OB Helen Sandland packed her bags and left New Haven Regional Medical Center after hospital administrators told her to "do more c-sections."

Dr. Sandland wrote in her resignation letter to the hospital: "I leave NHRMC with my morals and backbone absolutely uncorrupted." Thank God!

Still think your doctor always does what's in your best interests?

Both of these doctors are still practicing. Dr. Biter probably will, too, even if it means that patients will have to drive hours to get to him or make other crazy arrangements in order to have their babies delivered by him. All of them have patients with nothing but good things to say about their quality of care, yet the hospital doesn't care about that. In all its findings, I wonder if the committee in charge of suspending Dr. Murphy's license ever asked her patients what they thought about their care. If they ever looked at the outcomes of her patients - and their babies - not only in the short term, but in the long term as well. I find it scary that hospitals will basically admit that making money is their bottom line, even if it means doing something totally unnecessary to patients. It's alarming that all the way across the board - outside of the field of obstetrics, even - that "more is better" when it comes to patient care. No one seems to realize or want to admit that they're being used. You already feel like a cow when you're nine months pregnant; now you're being treated like one - a cash cow - by your doctor and the hospital.

Thank goodness there are still a few doctors left who see their patients as people - not just objects or slabs of meat to be dissected up for profit.


Ceci in Carlsbad said...

I really enjoyed reading your blogs. You have a way with words and I love your sarcasm. I would like to share a few things about Dr. Biter with you. Dr. Biter is my OB/GYN who went above & beyond for my care when I was pregnant. During the TWO threatened miscarriages I experienced, he encouraged me to come back to his office every day so that we could find the baby's heartbeat! In addition to that, I got to experience an INCREDIBLY AWESOME natural birth with him. I know that he will prevail and Scripps Hospital with be the sore losers, indeed. I am about to start my next round of IVF (for next baby) and pray that I will be able to deliver in his birthing center (which is so close to my home that I could walk there). For anyone out there that isn't sure of what kind of birth they want to have, I highly recommend watching Rikki Lake's documentary "The Business of Being Born".

The Deranged Housewife said...

Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. It's great to hear from one of Dr. Biter's patients. It's also great to hear that you were not forced into a c-section just because you had IVF, which seems to be the 'norm' right now for some reason. I wish you well and hope you are successful - wishing you loads of baby dust. :)

Anonymous said...

I would never recommend Dr. Murphy to anyone. My daughter has sustained life/permanent injuries because she talked me into having a natural birth when a c-section should have been done. Maybe you should do research on breach babies that shouldn't be delivered natural. I wish I would have had someone there to advise me otherwise. Our family has suffered mentally and financially. The state of Alaska is aware of her record (babies that have been hurt) but continually let's her practice. The State of Alaska and the Alaska Medical Board owe my daughter an apology for sure. She has no remorse.