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Against her will

Perhaps the most important patient’s rights case of the decade is Rinat Dray vs. Staten Island University Hospital, a case being handled by our firm.  Covered extensively in the New York Times and other media, the issues presented are shocking and controversial.  But with public recognition of obstetrical violence against women, the case could not be more timely.

The facts are easily summarized.  Rinat Dray, a 32 year old married Brooklyn mother, was pregnant with her third child.  The first two babies had been delivered by c-section but Ms. Dray wanted to deliver the third baby vaginally.  Through her own research she learned that a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was essentially as safe as a third c-section. She found a physician’s group willing to consider allowing this vaginal birth, and selected the hospital based on its low rate of c-sections.

Despite her careful planning, things went wrong when she reported to the hospital for delivery of the baby. Her regular physician was absent and the covering doctor insisted that she have a c-section. Dray refused.

What followed is almost beyond belief. The hospital doctors consulted the hospital attorney and concluded that they were entitled to force Rinat Dray to have the cesarean section against her will.  In the process her bladder was badly lacerated.

We sued the doctors and the hospital for medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, ordinary negligence and violation of NY Public Health Law 2803-c (the Patient’s Bill of Rights Law.)  The lower court struck most of the claims, finding that the claims were not medical malpractice, but battery.  (The battery statute of limitations expired before Ms. Dray came to us.) The case is now on appeal.

When Rinat Dray came to our firm, she had already been turned down by other attorneys.  We took the case because we feel that no one can be forced into surgery against her will. We feel a doctor cannot overrule a competent, adult, informed woman’s decision on how to deliver her baby.  And we don’t feel doctors have a right to injure one person for the benefit of another, especially without due process and a court order.

As seen on this CBS-TV segment, bioethics experts agree.  We hope the appeals court does too.