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Rinat Dray, mom of two, was expecting her third baby, and as her first two births were C-sections, she wanted to try for a vaginal birth instead (VBAC). However, when she showed up to the hospital in labor, she was met with arguments and threats, and had a C-section despite her objections. A lawsuit has been filed, but it begs the question: Where does your ownership over your own body begin — and end?
A wished-for birth
Dray was hoping for a VBAC trial because having had two C-sections already, she wanted to avoid a surgical birth this time around. However, when she showed up to Staten Island University Hospital in labor, the environment wasn't what she had hoped for. She was immediately put under pressure by her doctors and told that her baby was in danger and at risk if she didn't consent to a C-section. She also reports that they threatened her, saying that her baby would be taken away from her because refusing the operation was the same as child abuse.
Despite her protests, she was taken to the operating room and underwent a C-section, and during the surgery, her bladder was cut. Later, a doctor noted in her chart, "I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section." This decision was approved by another doctor as well as the hospital's lawyer. However, Dray has now filed a lawsuit, and is suing the hospital and the doctors for malpractice.
The ultimate responsibility
The opinions on the actions of the doctors, as well as the lawsuit itself, are quite divided. There are those who contend that there must be more to the story, and others feel that if a C-section was deemed so necessary that the mother's wishes were overridden, then the doctors had a good reason for doing so. Some also feel that if her wishes were granted and she or her baby had suffered a catastrophic event as a result, then she'd sue anyway (also known as a lose-lose situation).
However, others feel that a person has the ultimate say over their own body — even if a fetus is at risk, no surgeon has the right to cut you open to deliver it, period.
The importance of your birth
Birth stories are amazing to me. The experience is unlike any other, and they can be amazing and life-changing — in fact, they usually are. I have to say, though, that I absolutely loathe those who totally minimize the birth experience (particularly if a mother feels harassed, bullied or even violated) with the statement, "At least you have a healthy baby."
Of course every mother wants a healthy baby. Of course. Nobody is denying that. But equating a desire to have a better birth with being selfish, or as the doctor above put it, child abuse, is not the type of conversations we should be having.
More to the story?
I do have to say that I agree that there is likely more to the story here. When a mom desires a VBAC (I have had three myself), there are usually conversations held throughout a pregnancy. Not every facility and doctor can and will agree to a VBAC trial. What arrangement did this mom have with her physicians beforehand? Did they agree that a VBAC trial was suitable, or did she show up in labor as a surprise? Also, I'd like to read more detail about what necessitated the surgical delivery.
We do have to consider, however, that Dray may have been under the impression that her VBAC would be attempted as planned, and found herself instead railroaded onto the operating table. One of the doctors involved said (through court papers) that he had not taken her for a C-section against her will, and any injuries she sustained were due to her own "culpable conduct and want of care" — a statement that doesn't really make much sense (I'm not sure that you can cut your own bladder during your C-section, at least).
The C-section rate is shockingly high in the U.S. (it's hovering right around 32 percent) and trying to avoid one is a good goal to have, but it's imperative to find a medical care provider who you can communicate well with. Additionally, it's a good idea to have someone by your side who can help you advocate when you're at your most vulnerable. Whether this mom would have sued the hospital regardless of the outcome is up in the air, but having an open line of communication with the medical staff of whatever facility you deliver at is vital.