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Saturday, August 27, 2011

My response to Free Advice Legal Forums: Childbirth issues

Once in a while I stumble on the mother lode of all blood pressure triggers: in this case, it wasn't The sOB but the legal forums on "Outstanding advice, unbeatable price" is their motto. Let me tell you: you get what you pay for.

There are no shortage of odd, extremely sad cases floating around over there, and this was one of them: in short, a mother was 38 weeks pregnant with a breech presentation, and requested an ECV to turn the baby. The doctor was hesitant - probably taking the "Well, it might not work and you'll end up with a cesarean anyway!" approach that is so typical. Basically, the mother was given a VE-turned-membrane sweep and began labor three hours later. *sigh*

It's clear that the doctor was hesitant to do the ECV because she was afraid it would work, not because it wouldn't. The patient was obviously somewhat, at least, informed that she had options, and when she tried to exercise her rights, was thwarted. A cesarean ensued, and the patient had other problems as a result. While this was three years ago (so her child would be about six now), she still had lingering thoughts and bitterness over it, which was understandable and completely justified.

Boy, did the idiot comments fly after that. Of course the "You have a healthy baby, get over it!" was among them. I had been reading this forum for a few days prior, and saw the nastiest comments come up from the same woman every time - but this time I could not keep my big mouth shut. I had to say something before my brain exploded.

Here is my response:
While I know this is an old thread, hopefully someone might return to it to gain some perspective and help. 

There are some major philosophical issues that first must be addressed here - namely, the rights of the pregnant patient. People seem to have a lot of trouble understanding those areas and that, even though you are pregnant, you are still entitled to be treated like a person. Some of the comments here are so hateful and almost misogynistic - and I think that is indicative of our legal culture when it comes to childbirth issues and injuries/malpractice that might occur - that basically say, "You wanted a baby - you should therefore subject yourself to anything that might happen to you in order to deliver that child." That is not true, but because it's the predominant theme among most people, they'd lead to believe that the things happening to you were somehow normal and justified, and you should just "get over it." Too bad!

Unfortunately, I can't say their answers would be the same if this were a male patient; or someone receiving cardiac care, for example. There is such a double standard that exists when discussing childbirth issues and most of it, I think, is from ignorance. Yet, ironically, those very same people come back and tell YOU that YOU are uneducated. Very sad. 

You have every right to be bothered by this, but unfortunately because of the time frame, you probably don't have much recourse legally. Unless there are multiple complaints filed against the physician or hospital, they probably wouldn't do much to entertain your complaint. Even if there were multiple complaints filed, they probably wouldn't do much more than issue a perfunctory slap on the wrist. I say this not as a legal or medical professional, but as a childbirth advocate who has talked to many (MANY) women who have gone through similar scenarios, and as a mother of three young children. 

Reading between the lines here, I think it was obviously very unwise of your doctor to purposely strip your membranes without your permission. While some people think you can't really "prove" that this is what happened, you will know that a typical vaginal exam does NOT feel the same as when your membranes are stripped - that is your first clue. Not only that, but the obvious admission from your nurse friend says that she knew in advance that a stretch and sweep was going to be performed; I'd be curious to know what it says in your chart about that. Why would they do this when the baby was in an unfavorable position? Because they wanted you to go into labor and hence deliver the child by cesarean. I think your doctor hesitated about the external cephalic version because she was afraid it *would* work, not because she feared it wouldn't. A portion of them ARE successful, and while painful, that is why they admit you to the hospital and administer an epidural - most of the people who commented here either overlooked that or didn't know that is usually standard procedure. Unfortunately, what they also don't know (or don't want to admit) is that sometimes, babies will turn up until the last minute, even while in labor, into a vertex position. While some people will tell you this is rare, I think it's probably because the baby was never given a chance to turn because mother was sectioned before labor even began. 

A healthy baby DOES matter, but so does a healthy mother. Many people are too quick to completely dismiss any emotional or psychological aspects of birth, especially those that are traumatic. What many of those same people - including mothers - don't realize is that often times the very procedures we're subjected to cause more problems than if they had just been left alone; in other words, they treat birth like an accident waiting to happen, instead of treating things as they happen, IF they happen. Preventative, defensive healthcare in pregnancy and childbirth often causes more harm than good. 

It is the lack of compassion and utter venom that people like these forum members spew that makes women afraid to file complaints against their doctors, and the idea that unless you've lost your uterus, your baby or your life, there is no harm done. Bull----. And if you do complain, someone steps up and gets into a virtual pi***** match to compare birth stories and just how more terrible theirs was than yours, so you just better sit down and shut up. The truth is, few people know what normal is anymore, and are actually normalizing the abnormal. Unfortunately, it's rampant in obstetrics, and very difficult to just up and switch care providers, especially at the last minute. While it sounds like a good idea to just tell the OP to change doctors - at 38 weeks? Are you kidding me? No one would have taken her on, I'm sure. 

Consider your rights and options should you have another child (maybe you've already had one) and at least know that you have them. I'm glad someone mentioned ICAN; they are a good resource for support. Your lack of trust in doctors is not uncommon and you should not be made to feel like a freak because of it - you were violated and had things done to you without your permission. If this had been a sexual rape, would those same people tell you to just "get over it?" Is it simply okay because this was a physician, someone we should trust and respect, who did it instead? It's still a violation of your body and your rights and has changed the course of the way you birth future children FOREVER.
Sally, who thinks your birth was the worst ever and you didn't sue, no! This one's for you.

I'll anxiously await a response. *eyeroll*