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can I sue for unnecessary c-section?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Hi-
I had a crazy thought on my way to work today. I had a c-section 7 months ago. I was planning a perfect birth center birth, but because of their 24 hour rule w/ ROM, I ended up in the hospital on a pit drip, and the rest you can imagine. Totally typical story, everything was fine until we went to the hospital where they ruined everything. It left me totally wrecked emotionally, and i am just starting to see the light after working with a psychotherapist for the last couple of months. It has been really, really hard. I still cry several times a week, which is a big improvement from several times a day. I appreciate reading the stories of other mothers on here, I know I am far from alone in this sadness. We have a real reason to grieve.
Part of my recovery is thinking of ways to help others. I believe that doctors need to be trained in natural birth, and to be taught to believe in women's bodies. Medical schools have a duty to teach sound practices, and obviously they are not. Changing the way doctors are taught seems to be a daunting task that I am sure others have tried to accomplish. In the meantime...
I have never sued anyone in my life. It occurs to me that the hospital and doctor rules are largely because of fear of litigation. My c-section happened because of lawsuits. So, how do we improve things in such a flawed system? Maybe if we started suing for unnecessary interventions (when they are not based in science or need) we could get these doctors to think twice about what they are doing to our otherwise very healthy bodies?
Are there any lawyers out there? Is this even possible?

Again, I hate the idea of suing anybody. I just want the system to change, and I want it to happen fast. It is so frustrating to hear story after story of women being violated by the system, for babies to be put at risk, for the proudest and most important moment in people's lives to be disrespected in such a profound way. Please chime in, I would love to hear what you think!
post #2 of 30
If you consented to the section, I'm not sure if you'll get anywhere. I'm not sure sueing hospitals/OB's is the way to change policies, but as someone who has also had unnecessary c-sections, I understand your anger.
post #3 of 30
First of all mama, I'm very sorry that you had to go through and I can understand your anger and frustration. I went through a c-section myself (for reasons that I have reckoned with) and it is a huge thing to both go through and recover from.

As a lawyer, my opinion here is going to be more biased, but I don't believe that litigation is the primary reason that c-sections are performed so frequently (btwn: I only do commercial litigation so I can't speak for those in the medical malpractice field). I believe that c-sections produce a lot more revenue for hospitals and in my opinon this is the driving force behind the procedure. Compare a $10,000k c-section to a natural birth (which I understand is much less) and a hospital can generate tens of thousands of dollars a day. While I agree that fear of malpractice claims can be an underlying cause, I see other practices in the medical field which lead me to believe that revenue is often the underlying motivation. My own family has long been involved in the medical profession and they will reluctantly admit that natural or preventative medicine is often undervalued because, among other things, it is not good business.

I agree with Drummers Wife that I don't think that lawsuits are always successful in changing policy (especially on a grand scale). A hospital merely turns over its lawsuits to its insurers and legal teams, and absent "mal-practice" these things are generally litigated away from the public eye. There needs to be a cultural shift in the way we approach medicine. For instance, there were some high profile lawsuits involving the tobacco companies, but the real change occurred when the general population became more aware of the harmful consequences of smoking, and this began to happen long before the high profile lawsuits. It didn't happen overnight, but education and constant public reminders of the harmful effects eventually became ingrained in cultural thinking. People and groups advocated loud enough and eventually people began to recognize the health issues.

Are there any birth advocacy groups that you can get involved with in your area? Would you be willing to invest your energy into grass-roots education on the subject? Think of breastfeeding and how advocacy of breastfeeding is slowly becoming the norm and not the exception (we're not there yet, but we're getting there). These things take a lot of work, but if you're impassioned enough about the issue, it is worth it.
post #4 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsCradle View Post
I believe that c-sections produce a lot more revenue for hospitals and in my opinon this is the driving force behind the procedure.
But doctors in a hospital are often salaried employees, not consultants paid by the procedure. The person making the decision to section is not the one seeing the cash.

I am sure that private-practice docs may make decisions based on expectations of revenue, but in my training (I'm an MD) I have never seen any dr in a hospital make a decision on this basis.

I have however seen a whole lot of CYA medicine where the decisions are made based on lawsuit fear, in *full knowledge* that they are not actually best practice.

That said, I really doubt you could win this type of lawsuit. To win a malpractice suit you have to prove that the doctor did something other than the reasonable standard of practice, and that harm resulted. As far as I know it is standard practice to section after 24 h of ROM for fear of infection, so the doc is covered there.

for what you went through with the section and I agree with pp that getting involved in birth advocacy is probably a better route for your energy than an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit.
post #5 of 30
Quote:
But doctors in a hospital are often salaried employees, not consultants paid by the procedure. The person making the decision to section is not the one seeing the cash.

I am sure that private-practice docs may make decisions based on expectations of revenue, but in my training (I'm an MD) I have never seen any dr in a hospital make a decision on this basis.
I'm sure you are right, Mambera, generally speaking, but I know that with my own c-section, it was performed by my OB/GYN who was only affiliated with the hospital - he was not an actual employee. The hospital in my section of my city utilizes a lot of outside practioners. I still use my same doctor and I believe that he made a decision that was best for my circumstances. However, I would be curious to know what the percentage is for c-sections performed on those with good insurance and those without. Just to clarify - I'm not trying to place blame or infer greed, but knowing how businesses operate in general, I would imagine that there is pressure coming from hospital administrators and that pressure may be comprised of both fear of litigation and economical concerns. These two factors are also intertwined, so no matter how you look at it, the interest of the hospital comes first, no matter how noble the intent of medical professional. Of course this is just my personal opinion.

I know it sounds odd coming from a lawyer, but I see a lot of frivolous lawsuits and overburdened courts and I truly believe that social change is something best left to the people and/or legislature. Lawsuits are intended to provide redress for specific wrongs to specific individuals.
post #6 of 30
I hear ya mama, I have that same righteous anger after experiencing the same cascade of interventions.

I think suing over c-sections might be the only way to tip the scales. Money is one of the primary reasons for the escalating c/s rate.
post #7 of 30
I am only aware of one case in which a woman successfully sued after a c-section was performed and IIRC there were extenuating circumstances that were not present in your case.

I don't think you would have any luck finding a lawyer to take that case. They know it's a loser. Juries don't award cash to women who were saved, and whose babies were saved, by the doctor doing everything possible to protect them through the terribly dangerous emergency of childbirth. Obviously I don't agree with that perspective, but it's the lay of the land socially, culturally, and legally. You can show huge damage and injury if your baby is killed or seriously injured during a botched (or not botched, just unlucky) birth and you can always argue that a c-section should have been performed earlier - but a doctor calling a c-section under any vaguely reasonable circumstances, especially where a woman has consented to the procedure, just = savior doctor in the layperson's mind. Including a judge.

Hate to say it but I don't think suing for unnecessary c-section will ever be successful on an individual or population level, without some sort of massive cultural and medical shift that makes it possible. JMO. I think if you called 50 lawyers they would most likely all tell you that you have no case.
post #8 of 30
As someone who has gone through a lawsuit for wrongful death/medical malpractice, I'm not quite sure you know what you're getting into. It takes *years* to do a lawsuit, it can be very very expensive if your lawyer doesn't work on contingency (and even if they do, it's expensive...after our case was finished, we owed our lawyer 45% of what we recovered). You also have to be able to prove that you were harmed and that the standard of care was breeched. You can't just sue because you're angry--you have to have actual proof. Your case has to go to several experts who have to prove that standard of care was breeched. (I believe our case had to be screened by an expert prior to our lawyer taking it on, and then after the case was opened, it went to 2 or 3 more experts). You also have to have depositions on each side taken. It is a very long, drawn out, stressful, and expensive venture, and one that should only be used if there was clear malpractice. Walking into a hospital, consenting to a pitocin drip, and consenting to a c-section all are not malpractice, especially if you knew the birth center rules ahead of time.

I agree that changes need to be made. A lawsuit won't do that. Most lawsuits don't make the headlines, the hospitals/doctors involved don't have to pay (their insurance does), and very often nobody hears the result of the case. (Our case was never brought to the media, and unless you personally knew us, you wouldn't have known the case existed). Obviously it isn't a great way to make a mass change...
post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks for chiming in everybody. I was never actually going to sue, I know that in most people's eyes, my birth was just fine (especially from all the people telling me I have nothing to be sad about, I know this)... I was mostly just curious if others have thought the same thing or if anyone has gone through with it. I def don't have the stomach to litlgate. I dislike courts almost as much as I hate hospitals.
But, thanks for the understanding ear.
post #10 of 30


I am so sorry you are hurting.

Have you filled out the Birth Survey?

http://www.thebirthsurvey.com/

If someone got bad service at a restaurant then people would be raising Cain, it is really strange that people expect people to just tolerate bad service from a physician.

I am glad you are working with a therapist, it sounds like you are having a really hard time.
post #11 of 30
I'm sorry that you are hurting too. Has your therapist talked to you about ppd? We all process trauma differently. I'm concerned, though, that if you are still crying in anger over your birth several times a week seven months later, you may be processing some messed up neurological and hormonal chemistry as well as the trauma. You would think that, in this day and age, absolutely every medical practitioner in the world has heard of ppd and looks for the signs, but sometimes they don't. In addition to empowering you to deal with the aftermath of your traumatic experience, I hope that your psychotherapist is talking to you about treating what sound like symptoms of quite significant depression.
post #12 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stik View Post
I'm sorry that you are hurting too. Has your therapist talked to you about ppd? We all process trauma differently. I'm concerned, though, that if you are still crying in anger over your birth several times a week seven months later, you may be processing some messed up neurological and hormonal chemistry as well as the trauma. You would think that, in this day and age, absolutely every medical practitioner in the world has heard of ppd and looks for the signs, but sometimes they don't. In addition to empowering you to deal with the aftermath of your traumatic experience, I hope that your psychotherapist is talking to you about treating what sound like symptoms of quite significant depression.
Thanks for the concern, it really is nice to know you guys care, even though we've never met. My therapist is really great. We are doing EMDRhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_mov...d_reprocessing, and it is a difficult process, but I am working through it. What's funny about me is I have struggled with depression for much of my adult life, but I know I don't have PPD. I have also had a bad experience with antidepressants and am not willing to go down that road again. I have a history of trauma and this birth experience brought a lot of my old pain back. The same feelings of helplessness, loss of agency, being paralyzed etc are all locked up with my memories of the birth. And every mean thing I ever told myself (or was told to me) was confirmed by my "inability" to birth my own child. I do know, though, that I am going to get better. I am already planning for my next birth with a home birth midwife. We aren't going to start trying until DD is at least a year, and it is going to be an entirely different birth. I am going to go into it with more intention, and a much stronger voice. I became passive for DD's birth, and allowed the cascade of interventions that I knew were bad for us. I won't do that again. I know the stakes and I am finding my voice, and it is loud and pissed! lol
post #13 of 30
Have you thought of bringing this up to the hospital's umbudsman?
Also, I don't know how things work in the US (im a canadian physician) but back home there is a college of physicians that patients can turn to when they feel that a physician is not practicing appropriately.
post #14 of 30
Just about the only way you would have any case is if the c-section is preventing you from having as many kids as you want. (This can be true - some docs will say not to have more than 3 sections.) But your birth will be compared to the standard of care in your community, and since we have a 30% section rate, it is doubtful you would succeed. Don't even get me started on how unfair and ridiculous this is - but you will have to find other ways to work it out.
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamalade View Post
Thanks for the concern, it really is nice to know you guys care, even though we've never met. My therapist is really great. We are doing EMDRhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_mov...d_reprocessing, and it is a difficult process, but I am working through it. What's funny about me is I have struggled with depression for much of my adult life, but I know I don't have PPD. I have also had a bad experience with antidepressants and am not willing to go down that road again. I have a history of trauma and this birth experience brought a lot of my old pain back. The same feelings of helplessness, loss of agency, being paralyzed etc are all locked up with my memories of the birth. And every mean thing I ever told myself (or was told to me) was confirmed by my "inability" to birth my own child. I do know, though, that I am going to get better. I am already planning for my next birth with a home birth midwife. We aren't going to start trying until DD is at least a year, and it is going to be an entirely different birth. I am going to go into it with more intention, and a much stronger voice. I became passive for DD's birth, and allowed the cascade of interventions that I knew were bad for us. I won't do that again. I know the stakes and I am finding my voice, and it is loud and pissed! lol
Have you been having EMDR all this time?

Let us know how that works for you.
post #16 of 30

I will tell you this. I recently just a c section that I think was unnecessary. My labor was going good until the doctor decided to artifically rupture the membrane. I had no medical reason for her to do that. Which cause distress to my baby and heart rate on the baby went down, and i was rushed into an emergency c section. Everything was good until the doctor decided to just speed up the delivery process again with no medical reason. I am fine and baby is fine as right now, but when the c section was performed they found out the cord was wrapped around the baby neck and was disengaged a little. Now i am not one to sue either, but because a doctor wants to speed up delivery and putting my baby life in jepordy. I have major issues with that. I entrusted my health and my baby healh in my doctor care, and to speed up the delivery that does not go well with me. they never did an ultra sound so they cant prove that my baby was not already fully engaged to come out. but by artifically ruputuring my membrane that is one possible side effect a baby can do is disengage and put heart rate can go down. Again everything was fine until she ruptured it. So i personally dont feel like not just her but any doctor should get away with it. just for the reason Just becasue. besides if mild damage is down nothing will be seen later until the baby developes. i am so worried now and watching everything with her development now.

post #17 of 30

In many states --and her in Tennessee--the hospital gets EXACTLY the same for a C. Section as they do for a vaginal birth--so they are actually going to do better if the woman delivers VAGINALLY--and also MANY of us are salaried so we don't make any extra---and you can't believe the amount of free care we provide to people with no insurance who walk through the doors--we don't have a prayer of collecting a DIME--yet provide the same care.  My C. Section rate jumped to 15% form 7% last year---for the first time in 23 years---why??   3 drug users showing up in labor with babies literally on death's door---ruptured uterus, abruption and prolonged rupture with thick meconium and 1 cm.  All 3 were C. sectioned!

 

I had a forceps with #1, C. section with #2  then a VBAC.  Sometimes--childbirth just sucks!

post #18 of 30

Oh---and in my community there is this horrible site called TOPIX---where --right now---I am being vilified for offering VBACs------being called the VBAC QUACK despite good outcomes and no law suits in 23 years of practice-------just so you see there is another side!

 

Heck I am trying to convince a woman now to ahve a vaginal breech for her second baby---but her family thinks I should C. Secton her------arrrggghhhhh

 

But hey---blame us!!!

post #19 of 30

Obdoc, that sounds very frustrating.  If all OBs were like you then women would be a lot happier with OBs.  It must be hard to work with everyone's expectations when you yourself support natural childbirth but are surrounded by women and families and opinionated internet posters who don't.  Medicine seems like a difficult profession for low intervention practitioners who prefer to work with natural processes in this day and age. 

post #20 of 30

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Edited by member234098 - 5/25/12 at 10:58pm
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