The mother was a high-risk pregnancy (due to VBAC), was post-dates and had gestational diabetes. The fetus wasn’t in a good position to facilitate vaginal delivery, and an ultrasound showed the fetus in possible distress.
The patient was sent to Tampa General hospital for immediate C-section, but refused to have the surgery done that day. She wanted the baby delivered on Friday, not Tuesday. So the obstetrician sent her an e-mail which stated, in part
I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery.
I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice
The doctor was promptly contacted by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, whose New York attorneys advised him (apparently applying their vast knowledge of Florida law to the case) that he was making “legally and ethically unjustifiable” threats and demanded he cease taking further action against the patient. The NAPW even put up a post about the incident on their web site. Hopefully, the attorneys at NAPW have licenses in Florida, otherwise some might consider them to be practicing law in Florida without a license – which I think might be illegal.
Now the patient is having her baby delivered on Friday as she wanted.
When I initially read this article, I was upset with the doctor.
The more I thought about it, though, the fetus has as many rights as the mother does. If the mother was doing things to endanger the life of the fetus the day after it was born, a call to the police would be expected, not ridiculed. States mandate reporting of suspected child abuse and impose liability on providers if suspected abuse is not reported.
In this case, it is questionable whether a failure to deliver a child that is possibly in distress would be considered “child abuse,” but usually if there is a suspicion, a report is mandated.
I side with the doctor on this one. And I probably would have called the state child welfare agency on the woman just to cover myself.
This case will get ugly real quick if there are complications during the pregnancy or if the child isn’t born healthy.
If the baby is stillborn, should the mother be charged with a crime?