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When Doctors Ignore Women During Childbirth, Medical Malpractice May Soon Follow

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2017 | Firm News

NEW YORK. According to NPR and ProPublica, more women die in childbirth in America than in any other developed country. The investigative report found that hospital care is geared toward the wellbeing of the newborn, while not always considering the health of the mother. Hospitals and doctors may not be prepared to handle maternal medical emergencies and, for low income mothers, the risks are even higher. But the risks to mothers may not end with low-quality maternal care. Others face challenges with consent during labor.

Other reporters have investigated how doctors treat women during and after childbirth and some have found that mothers’ wishes are not always respected during childbirth and delivery. For example, QZ reported on a case where a woman was forced to undergo an episiotomy despite repeatedly telling her doctor she didn’t wish to undergo the procedure. The woman went on to sue her doctor for assault and battery.

Episiotomy is a surgical cut made between the anus and the vulva and it is used to prevent tears during childbirth. By 1979, an estimated 80% of first-time births involved an episiotomy, and while the numbers have gone down, some doctors still use the procedure. Doctors reason that it controls the kind of tearing that a woman might experience during childbirth. Recent research, however, indicates that the procedure can actually increase a woman’s risk of infection, incontinence, tearing, bleeding, and other complications.

In the case of the woman who refused to undergo the procedure, she repeatedly told her doctor not to do it. While she had signed a form indicated that she accepted medical treatment, the form also informed her that she had the right to refuse treatment she didn’t want.

Her case raises questions about a woman’s right to consent to treatment during childbirth and raises awareness about women’s rights during childbirth. Some women’s groups have been pushing to raise awareness about “obstetric violence,” but until recently, people have been skeptical about its existence. However, researchers have found that many women have been facing pressure about the medical procedures they should receive during labor and delivery. 59% of mothers reported that they were pressured to undergo an episiotomy and another 8 to 23% reported that they were pressured to undergo labor induction, epidurals, or C-sections.

Unwanted episiotomy’s or other unwanted procedures can be difficult to challenge in court. A medical malpractice lawsuit requires a woman to show that a doctor provided substandard care. However, in a case where a patient refuses treatment and is given the treatment anyway, patients may face difficulties proving medical malpractice if the treatment wasn’t delivered in a substandard manner. This is why one patient chose to pursue an assault charge against her doctor.

As many as one-third of women may experience some form of trauma during childbirth. If you have experienced trauma during childbirth, you have rights. Antin, Ehrlich, & Epstein, L.L.P. are medical malpractice lawyers in New York who work with families who have been harmed by medical decisions or by another person or party’s negligence or neglect. If you are planning for your pregnancy, it is important to share your wishes with your doctor beforehand. However, if your wishes are not honored, you may have important rights under the law. Visit our firm today if you believe you have suffered an injury due to another person or party’s negligence or neglect.