I was horrified to read the allegations in the lawsuit by a woman who claims the obstetrician who attended the birth of her baby abused her. Click here to read the allegations and other information — it first appeared in the Chicago Tribune and, undoubtedly, has been blogged about quite extensively, so this may not be the first time you’ve read about it. I’ve read numerous stories of women who claim abuse or “birth rape” during labor or birth, but this is the first occurrence I’ve seen of a lawsuit about it. (If you haven’t read it yet, go read the blog post and then come back here.)
Unfortunately, it seems that there are a lot of people who say, “What’s the big deal? — mom and baby both lived, so why sue?” Is that all the matters? Are women supposed to be treated like that — have medicine witheld from them, told that they are going to hemorrhage so much that they will need a transfusion, and to start pushing prior to full dilation?
I don’t like the litigious society we have, but lawsuits get results. And attention. Had this woman not sued, her story probably wouldn’t have been told. And if it was told, it would probably have made the rounds in “crunchy” blogs, but not gotten into the mainstream. For that reason, I’m glad this woman has filed suit. I wish she could pursue criminal charges, and she may technically be able to, but can you imagine being the police officer who would have to work the case? “Um, let’s see, Mrs. Skol, you allege that when you went to the hospital, Dr. Pierce assaulted you. Did he hit you? [No.] Did he attack you with a medical instrument? [No.] Well, what did he do?… Oh, he performed a vaginal exam on you without your permission? Is that even assault?” Um, yeah, in my book — if anybody else stuck his hand in her vagina against her permission, it would be counted as assault or battery or rape or whatever the “correct” legal term is. But because he’s a doctor, his “white coat” gives him immunity in a lot of people’s minds from such “common” criminal terms as assault and battery.
At one point, the doctor had the woman’s husband hold her down while he stitched her tears (or possibly an episiotomy) closed without anesthetic. The husband didn’t know what else to do, so he complied with the doctor’s orders. Because he had on a white coat, he had to be doing the right thing, right? Probably Mr. Skol wanted it over as soon as possible, and his wife’s struggles to get away from the painful needle was making it take longer, so he probably thought he was doing what was in her best interests. Had the doctor been a stranger on the street hurting his wife like that, the husband probably would have seriously injured him. But because he had on a white coat, he did nothing.
I think the woman deserves compensation for what she experienced; and while money cannot make up for the pain and fear she underwent, it is better than nothing. I’d prefer to see the doctor (assuming these allegations are true) stripped of his medical license and sent to jail, but that’s probably not happening. This lawsuit will give this doctor a lot of negative attention, and will probably make a lot of people think twice before using him for his services. So, he may be out of work anyway (in obstetrics, at least).
Is being alive at the end of the day all that matters? What if this weren’t obstetrics? What if the woman had gone in for, say, a gall-bladder surgery, and the doctor wouldn’t allow her to ask any questions? What if (somehow) the anesthetic wore off before the end of surgery, and the patient complained that she could feel pain, and the doctor refused to inject a local anesthetic while he closed the incision? Would that be allowable, as long as the patient was still alive at the end of the surgery?
Filed under: birth experience, birth story, epidurals, informed consent, labor and birth, labor support, Uncategorized Tagged: | assault, baby, battery, birth, birth assault, birth rape, birth trauma, catherine skol, chicago, chicago tribune, dr. scott pierce, health, obstetrician, obstetrics, pregnancy, pregnant, rush university medical center, scott pierce, trauma