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Florida mom-to-be told by hospital she must have cesarean

Who makes the decision about how a child is delivered -- the mother or the hospital? That's the question at the heart of a controversy here in Florida.

It began when the chief financial officer of a Port Charlotte medical facility, Bayfront Health, sent a letter to an expectant mother. Her previous three children were delivered by cesarean section, but she had determined that she wanted to attempt what is called a vaginal birth after cesarean.

The hospital official threatened to report the Cape Coral woman to Florida's Department of Children and Family Services if she didn't consent to a C-section. The CFO said they would perform the surgery "with or without (her) consent."

The woman says she made her decision because she wants to do what "will be safest for both me and my baby, and give me the greatest chance at being able to heal quickly…so I can care for my newborn and my three other children."

Medical experts say that both options for delivery carry risks. Women who have had previous C-sections risk uterine rupturing if they go through labor. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of women successfully deliver via VBAC. There is more than a 12 percent chance of serious complications in a fourth cesarean surgery. The woman said that she "would definitely consent to surgery if there were any indication during labor that it is necessary."

An attorney assisting the woman said she understands the hospital has concerns about medical malpractice liability, but that "[d]eciding whether and when to consent to surgery is a constitutionally protected right." However, a U.S. district judge ruled that she has no right "to compel a physician or medical facility to perform a medical procedure in the manner she wishes against their best medical judgment."

According to a July 28 article on Yahoo! Health, she gave birth via C-section on July 25. Outside the hospital, protesters held signs with messages like "Honk if you hate forced surgery."

As with many medical procedures, there seem to be mixed opinions on this one. It's unfortunate when a hospital CFO and the courts have to get involved in what should be a decision made by a woman in consultation with her doctor. However, sometimes patients and their families have to turn to the justice system when their rights are jeopardized or when harm is done.

Source: The Wisconsin Gazette, "Florida hospital threatens to force pregnant patient to undergo cesarean surgery" Jul. 25, 2014

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