Is Refusing Bed Rest a Crime?

I don’t believe it is, but then, I don’t believe pregnant woman are incubators for the state’s fetuses either. Others disagree, as evidenced in this case unfolding in the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, Fla.

Samantha Burton was in her 25th week of pregnancy in March 2009 when she started showing signs of miscarrying. Her doctor advised her to go on bed rest, possibly for as long as 15 weeks, but she told him that she had two toddlers to care for and a job to keep. She planned on getting a second opinion, but the doctor alerted the state, which then asked the Circuit Court of Leon County to step in.

She was ordered to stay in bed at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and to undergo “any and all medical treatments” her doctor, acting in the interests of the fetus, decided were necessary. Burton asked to switch hospitals and the request was denied by the court, which said “such a change is not in the child’s best interest at this time.” After three days of hospitalization, she had to undergo an emergency C-section and the fetus was found dead.

To recap: A doctor made a recommendation to a pregnant patient, the patient told the doctor this recommendation was impossible for her and that she wanted a second opinion. The doctor said no and called the state which confined her to this doctor’s care in this doctor’s hospital against her will, where she was forced to have a c-section three days later and it was found she had already miscarried. Later, the patient brings a lawsuit and the court rules against her, saying the State of Florida was only trying to maintain the “status quo” of confining pregnant women against their wills to be cared for by antagonistic doctors, which is, of course, for the good of the fetus.

Burton’s attorney and the ACLU took the case to a higher court, arguing that the original decision unlawfully expanded the court’s right to “to order medical treatment for a child over a parent’s” objections and applied the precedent to a fetus, which is problematic because the fetus happens to be located inside a sentient being who is objecting the medical treatment being exacted on her person. They further argued that the state dangerously expanded existing laws over the rights of pregnant women, indicating that if left unchallenged it would leave the law open to “risk virtually unfettered intrusion into the lives of pregnant women.”

Diana Kasdan argued on behalf of Burton yesterday:

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the State of Florida had stepped in to override the medical decision-making of a pregnant woman… What was even more stunning than in other cases was the unlimited breadth of the court order; the complete lack of any consideration of Ms. Burton’s constitutional rights or health; and the fact that the hearing had gone forward with no legal or other advocate to represent Ms. Burton. After a brief telephone hearing, and no review of her medical records or consideration of a second medical opinion, the circuit court summarily ordered Ms. Burton to submit to any and all medical treatments and interventions — including eventually a C-section — that the hospital’s medical staff deemed appropriate.

This situation, and the patriarchal attitudes about women and pregnancy that it springs from, caused Burton immeasurable ills above and beyond the pain that goes with a complicated pregnancy — the court and her care providers erased her personhood, her autonomy, her wishes, and placed her living children and economic livelihood in jeopardy. This ruling also sets a precedent that leaves the next pregnant woman at risk of being held hostage by the state if she doesn’t — or can’t — follow a doctor’s orders at the very time the doctor orders.

Rachel at Our Bodies, Our Blog points out a larger medical issuethat the court has bought into, whether for misogynist, pro-life or pro-corporate reasons, we do not yet know, hospital insurance coverage and the ever-looming fear-of-malpractice-lawsuit excuse that regularly limits medically-assisted birth:

The same values that lead to restricting women’s choices about following medical advice also affects the choices women have in birth. Many hospitals will not allow vaginal births after cesareans or allow women to chose whether they are continuously monitored, implying that the “only thing that matters” is getting a healthy baby at the end, and that the woman’s “experience” does not matter. In such a framework — where women’s desires are readily ignored (and made to seem trivial) –- court intervention with regards to bed rest does not seem extreme. We have already seen cases in which court-ordered cesareans have occurred. In this case — as in abortion and birth choices –- the fetus is prioritized. A woman’s bodily autonomy and preferences for how her pregnant body is treated and used are held secondary to fetal outcomes.

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50 comments for “Is Refusing Bed Rest a Crime?

  1. jemand
    January 13, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    “Many hospitals will not allow vaginal births after cesareans or allow women to chose whether they are continuously monitored,”

    Isn’t it true that this is not even medically sound at all? Multiple unnecessary cesareans increase the risk of fatal complications for both the mother and child– and any future children she may conceive. Furthermore, continuous monitering increases stress and decreases mobility, leading to increased ‘heroic’ medical intervention such as more hormone injections and cesareans, both, while valid medical techniques, dangerous when overused in a population, and has never been shown to result in better outcomes than intermittent monitoring (more C-sections, yes. Fewer live babies and healthy mothers).

    It’s NOT a choice between female agency and good health care. The two are NOT at odds! Treating women as prisoners and incubators alone, instead of active agents during their children’s birth, increases dangerous medical complications AND promotes damaging sexist attitudes.

    • January 14, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Jemand, also: A lot of people commenting on this story are saying that even the effectiveness of bed rest to prevent miscarriage and delay early childbirth has been challenged recently. I haven’t been able to find anything sound about that online — still looking.

  2. elle
    January 14, 2010 at 12:12 am

    “Although bed rest is the most common choice of treatment, there is little evidence of its value.”
    Qureshi NS. Maturitas. 2009 Nov 26. “Treatment options for threatened miscarriage.”

    Medical librarian FTW!

    I have more cites, but don’t want to trigger the spam detector. Let me know in the comments if you want them, and I’ll add more in separate posts.

  3. Sarah H.
    January 14, 2010 at 12:32 am

    This is absolutely sickening. IMO situations like this are a desperate attempt of oldschool OBs trying to keep their “authority” over women who are more and more frequently taking control of their bodies and seeking alternative ways to birth their babies.

  4. evil_fizz
    January 14, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Lauren, Sungold wrote a nice post on this case earlier on which addressed the idea that bed rest is not so benign. She links to a NIH study which goes into depth.

    When the Fizzlet was born 6 months ago, I had a miserable recovery from C-section complications and spent a week largely confined to bed. I was pretty much homicidal by the end, and I cannot fathom being forced into that for FIFTEEN WEEKS (which is what Burton’s doctors were proposing).

  5. akeeyu
    January 14, 2010 at 1:24 am


    Bed rest is the equivalent of crossing your fingers. I say this as somebody who was ON bed rest for 13 weeks (from 23 to 36 weeks). I was seeing the best doctors in about a three state area, and they all told me that studies had proven that bed rest doesn’t work, HOWEVER, most people would prefer to do *something* and feel like they’ve done everything they can.

    In my case, being upright caused contractions, and contractions triggered preterm labor, so it kind of worked, but it’s not a magic bullet.

    Here ya go:

    One of the perinatologists I saw said “There is basically a clock somewhere in your body that knows exactly when you’re going to give birth. The problem is that we can’t see it and beyond some minor tinkering, we can’t change it.”

    Incidentally, being on bed rest for 13 weeks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Bed rest is surprisingly physically difficult (muscle pain and extreme atrophy, stress on your joints, bed sores–let me say that again: BED SORES), and unbelievably depressing and stressful. Counting contractions and trying to figure out exactly how far and how often you can move for months on end is just no way to live.

    It was a financial disaster for my family, a logistical nightmare and incredibly stressful for my husband. It is not easy working a full time job while being the sole caregiver for a medically fragile and completely dependent person.

    As bed rest progressed, it became more rigid. What started as “try to stay off your feet” became “stay at home” and eventually “stay in bed, leaving only to walk 12 steps to the toilet and back”. When my husband came home, I used to sniff his shirt so I could smell fresh air.

    I had excellent medical care, an amazing husband, and a team of nurses and social workers available to help and also quite willing to kick my husband out of the room on a regular basis and ask if I was safe and well cared for–can you imagine being in an abusive relationship under these circumstances?

    Even so, it was utter hell on earth. Nothing fucks with your head more than knowing you are utterly helpless and yet completely responsible for bringing a total train wreck of a pregnancy to term.

    You can’t even imagine.

  6. January 14, 2010 at 2:35 am

    This is a really scary story of the government stepping in and invading the lives of Americans telling them what to do with their bodies. If you woke up tomorrow in a hospital connected to somebody else, a close relative, and the doctors told you that if you got up and left that person would die there would be no way the government could force you to stay there; and yet somehow with a fetus it is a different story.

    This is an issue where all women and men should have no dispute on. Having the state come in and dictate to you what you can and cannot do, and effectively make your body it’s own prison cell is as un-American as you can get.

  7. DRD1812
    January 14, 2010 at 3:04 am

    You really can’t win. I had to go on bedrest for both of my pregnancies, and hired a nanny for my 2nd pregnancy (not allowed to lift anything over 5 pounds).

    They used me having a nanny while I was a ‘stay-at-home’ mother against me in the custody hearing. It’s a no-win situation. Ignore the drs orders and be told you don’t care about your fetus (and are thus a bad mother), or do everything possible to follow drs orders, and you’re a bad mother for being ‘lazy’ (nevermind that you’re disabled, canebound, but still cared for 2 young children on your own for 1.5 years).

    And now my ex has custody.

  8. January 14, 2010 at 4:28 am

    I’m a nurse, definitely not in the ob-gyn arena, and hell, I’d consider the doctor near criminal. And why couldn’t they have transferred her to the care of another physician in house, or to another hospital? Maybe we don’t have all the details, but this definitely smells fishy.

    Just another reason why I’m mad at the health care system right now, and the status quo of everything.

  9. Glauke
    January 14, 2010 at 4:55 am

    Also, you people need better labor laws.

    As a Dutch woman, it’s very weird to me that a person cannot take sickleave from hir job.

  10. January 14, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Cosign that bedrest is a shot in the dark. By the time they tell you to go on bedrest, it’s already too late—whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and really, hospitalized bed rest is all about having the patient in the hospital already, within easy reach of an operating room (they had me damn near right next door to it), so if there is any hope at all for a good outcome—that’s it.

    I was entitled to Family and Medical Leave (many women are not–mostly by virtue of not working for a large-enough employer), yet lost my job anyway. That’s what happens to most people—they lose their jobs. What the hell was this woman supposed to do?

    I hope she wins a HUGE settlement. That is the only thing that is going to send the message to other hospitals not to pull the same stunt.

  11. January 14, 2010 at 7:53 am

    I’d say that we need to publicize this judge’s conduct, but in Florida, that would probably help him.

    I hope he gets run over by a bus.

  12. Kat
    January 14, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I was confined to bedrest with my first pregnancy, for preeclampsia. I was supposed to lie on my left side all day. I remember in the appt being told that I needed to go on bedrest and the doctor asking me if I had any other children. I did not at the time. He said, “good, because then you can do this at home, if you had kids we’d have to put you in the hospital.” After reading this post, this comment he made is so much more significant. What if I DID have kids? They would just care for themselves without me? How does that work?

    I was employed at the time. I gave my boss the doctor’s note that said I needed to leave work at 37 weeks (versus 40 weeks as planned). She was not happy, and I found out later she went around telling everyone that I had worked out some scam with the doctor so that I could be lazy. She had originally approved me for a few weeks of unpaid leave after my disability ran out, but started mentioning that she had changed in mind (my daycare waiting list was still the same, so I was not able to come back earlier).

    In the meantime, I”m home lying on my left side. Where my (now ex) husband would tell me I was lazy because I was at home all day and didn’t do anything. Later, when I returned to work, I remember walking in my first day back wondering if I even had a job.

    It was all a very lose-lose situation. In the end, I had a healthy baby. I am grateful for that, but the stress of the bedrest certainly wasn’t ideal.

  13. Sheelzebub
    January 14, 2010 at 7:59 am

    You know, I have no desire to have children or to be pregnant. At all. But if I did, I wouldn’t, because of cases like this. Apparently, once you’re pregnant, you stop being a human being.

  14. becky
    January 14, 2010 at 8:02 am

    i am speechless. except for having to express the strong desire to punch the doctor and the judge in the face. there’s nothing to discuss here.

  15. January 14, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Evil Fizz, thanks for linking my post from last summer! I should just add that the source I cited was a Cochrane Review, which is basically a metastudy of the studies on bedrest. They found only two studies that met their criteria for high-quality evidence. There’s some controversy within medicine as to whether the Cochrane criteria might be too exacting. However, I’ve *never* seen a solid study supporting the effectiveness of bedrest as an intervention.

    The details of the case are even more horrifying. Burton was subjected to a c-section at the end of her time in the hospital, at a point where the fetus had already died. If you want to know more, my post also links to the .pdf of the ACLU brief on behalf of Burton.

  16. emjaybee
    January 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I can only add my “arrrgh!” of rage to this one.

    Elle–you are a medical librarian? I am working on a project about women’s legal rights in birth/risks in birth; would you be interested in maybe helping us with some sources for studies? Only if you have time, of course.

    email me at emjaybee at grabapple dot net if so. Thanks!

  17. Athenia
    January 14, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Something tells me that this doctor wasn’t doing his job.

  18. Bitter Scribe
    January 14, 2010 at 11:27 am

    What Glauke said. Assume for the sake of argument that bedrest really is warranted in a case like this: No one in America would even think of approaching the woman’s employer and asking him to grant leave or make any accommodation whatever for the woman’s condition. Employers in this country are viewed as sacrosanct, beyond the bounds of any persuasion or morality. The fact that you sign someone’s paycheck apparently makes you utterly untouchable.

    Years ago, a cousin of mine was in this situation. She was able to work from her bed. In fact, she was willing to quit her job, but her law firm valued her so highly that they allowed her to work from home. That’s fine for a highly educated and fortunate woman like my cousin, but apparently, the other 9/10ths of humanity can just go to hell.

  19. Ursula L
    January 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Thomas wrote: I’d say that we need to publicize this judge’s conduct, but in Florida, that would probably help him.

    It might help the judge if the ordered treatments had led to a healthy birth. But “The judge kept her from getting a second opinion, and gave the incompetent doctor control, and the baby died” will look bad to the fetus-first people due to the stillbirth, as well as to us.

    I’m more concerned in how this will play in the health care reform debate. It’s a potential anti-reform talking point – “look what happens when the government controls health care. You get forced into treatments you don’t want, and little babies die.”

  20. akeeyu
    January 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Bitter scribe:

    “Assume for the sake of argument that bedrest really is warranted in a case like this: No one in America would even think of approaching the woman’s employer and asking him to grant leave or make any accommodation whatever for the woman’s condition.”

    Pardon? I not only got FMLA, I got short term disability checks (which were a pittance, but they were *something*). Prior to going on leave, the doctor wrote orders for reduced hours and light duty for medical reasons. I don’t work for an understanding employer by any means, but I work for a company large enough that they have to follow FMLA guidelines.

    Small companies? You’re kind of on your own.

    While I was on bedrest, I kept thinking “If I didn’t have Sam, or he wasn’t willing to take care of me, I would be homeless and starving because I can’t keep a roof over my head or procure or even *prepare* food for myself.”

    I lived in constant terror that something would happen to him, not just because hey, he’s my husband and I’m kind of fond of him, but because I wouldn’t even be able to drive myself to the nearest hospital without going into labor if something happened.

  21. January 14, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for linking to my OBOS post. I find this whole case appalling, but unfortunately not at all surprising.

    PS to Elle: I’m a medical librarian as well! Hi! :)

  22. auditorydamage
    January 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    It’s a potential anti-reform talking point – “look what happens when the government controls health care. You get forced into treatments you don’t want, and little babies die.”

    Which would be especially craven seeing as the entire situation sounds like something many anti-choice nuts would eagerly get behind. The legal suppression of this woman’s personal freedom is a perfectly logical, and horrifying, result of social and legal doctrines that value a woman’s potential offspring more than the woman herself – in other words, the anti-choice movement won’t stop at banning abortion. I can imagine a situation where the nuts manage to make working outside the home illegal for women after conception – and if the woman is single, into the hospital she goes wheher she wants to or not. Shame is the name of the game.

    I suppose SCOTUS would grudgingly rule that this woman has a right to support herself while pregnant and rule the judge’s order improper, but only by a 5-4 margin…

  23. ShelbyWoo
    January 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    And, let me guess, Ms. Burton is responsible for the cost of her forced hospital stay, all the forced interventions, and the forced c-section as well. Sometimes I loathe living in the U.S.

  24. Lauren the Doula
    January 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    While I appreciate those who have brought up the lack of evidence that bedrest can prevent miscarriage, I feel as though it greatly misses the point. Women should *always* have the freedom to choose what happens to their bodies, pregnant or not. As a doula, it is my job to see that they are able to access as much medically-sound information for them to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and their births. National Advocates for Pregnant Women does great work along these lines, opposing so-called “personhood” measures as well as fetal rights campaigns, as they not only harm women who want abortions but women who want to be able to carry a pregnancy in their own way as well. It’s a question of autonomy, and while the lack of evidence for bedrest is certainly an important point to make, an argument for women’s total control over her reproductive body and unborn baby is where we need to be hitting.

  25. karak
    January 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    You know, if she was a GOOD mother, she would have squatted down and crapped out a pile of money and a housekeeper. That way, someone will take care of her children, clean her house, and make-up for the loss of income for her job while she’s on bedrest. I mean, it’s unreasonable that the State would pay for prenatal care. It would have been disgusting if she’d applied for some sort of temporary disability aid, as well. We all know that women with who apply for aid are really whores milking the system. What a terrible, terrible mother. I mean, how unreasonable of her! Her options were so easy and clear-cut!

  26. Lucy Gillam
    January 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    The fact that the judge and the doctor were apparently unconcerned with who would care and support her two existing children does kind of neatly demonstrate the point that the radical pro-“life” agenda stops once the baby is actually born, doesn’t it?

  27. January 14, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I suppose if you want to campaign against this sort of thing happening in the USA, it might be worth pointing out that this sounds like just the sort of thing that right-wingers always claim happens under socialism or communism. (Certainly, it sounds like Stalinist-style behaviour to me.)

    Point to this story and say “proof that Florida is a communist state” and explain why, and who knows – maybe people will start to take human rights as including women’s human rights!

  28. January 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    “I hope he gets run over by a bus.”

    While I am in full agreement that the judge behaved in a completely despicable manner, I’m not at all comfortable with wishing violence on the man. Doing so makes us as bad as anti-choicers who wish violence on abortion providers. You aren’t doing women any favors by wishing violence on our enemies.

  29. William
    January 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    The thing about this case is that I’m not sure just how aware people are of the breadth of powers granted to doctors and the utter deference with which their opinions are treated. I’m finishing my last year in a doctoral program in clinical psychology and my current clinical training is at a very large public hospital in Chicago. Part of my responsibility is to cover ER shifts and do psych consults/evals when ER or ASC (think urgent care without the urgent) staff thinks there is some kind of psychiatric issue. Probably a quarter of those pages involve doctors, often with very little psych training, calling me in and expecting me to rubber-stamp a certificate and have someone involuntarily committed for one reason or another. In about half of those cases the primary psychiatric symptom cited when I show up is “noncompliance.”

    Just so its clear: when I work an ER shift and my pager goes off there is about a 1 in 8 chance that a doctor wants me to declare someone incompetent, issue a certificate attesting to that, and have them committed against their will because the person has decided not to follow doctors orders. Every single time I say no I end up on the business end of a tirade from an entitled M.D. and told I’m not being a team player.

  30. piny
    January 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    While I am in full agreement that the judge behaved in a completely despicable manner, I’m not at all comfortable with wishing violence on the man. Doing so makes us as bad as anti-choicers who wish violence on abortion providers. You aren’t doing women any favors by wishing violence on our enemies.

    I don’t wish harm on either Roeder or his earthly judge, either. And I agree that there’s no point waiting for bread trucks and runaway tigers. And I guess I agree that it cheapens us all.

    I don’t have so much of a problem with anti-choicers wishing. They can call down all the lightning bolts they and their kneecaps have energy for. God knows better than to listen to them. Anti-choicers have a solid record of taking His decisions into their own hands, though.

  31. piny
    January 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm


    Sorry. I need to pay a bit more attention, don’t I?

  32. Kyra
    January 14, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I hope he gets run over by a bus.

    That’s not fair to the bus driver, IMHO. Nor to the doctor’s family and friends. Personally, I’d like to see him lose his medical license, be personally on the financial hook for at least some of the expenses he forced this woman to incur (with his medical malpractice insurance paying the rest of it, if not the hospital itself). I want her to be set for life from the settlement.

    I want a federal-level law that prevents shit like this from happening; I want all patients to have the right to a second opinion, and a third, and to transfer to a different doctor and a different hospital if they’re having problems with the current doctors. I want whoever orders stuff like this to be obligated to address the concerns of the patient regarding consequences to the orders, and have to pay for child care as needed, and reimburse lost income, and I want patients to not have to pay for treatment to which they did not consent.

    Too many doctors will happily order things without a care for things like financial consequences; hopefully fewer will be willing to pay fifty grand for the privilege of screwing up someone’s life.

  33. Lorraine
    January 14, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Someone needs to explain to me how the state has such a compelling interest in possibly increasing the chance that a fetus will be born alive that justifies taking away this autonomous, competent woman’s constitutional right to consent to or refuse any and all medical procedures being done to her own body.

    The scary thing is that the Florida constitution explicitly mentions the right to privacy and is generally thought to protect more individual freedoms than the US Constitution.

    If I ever become pregnant, you can be sure I won’t be traveling to Florida or Georgia, for fear of being mistaken with a subhuman incubator. I’m glad I live in Illinois.

  34. Rachel
    January 15, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Holy unlawful imprisonment batman!
    I’d be filing a lawsuit against everyone involved- the doctor, the hospital, the city, and the state.
    Her basic human rights were violated. Someone needs to pay.

  35. umami
    January 15, 2010 at 4:50 am

    How incredibly frightening. William@30, that’s some seriously scary shit too. It sounds like you’re being brave; “not a team player” sounds like a coded threat to me, but I hope I’m wrong, or maybe they’re issuing threats but don’t have the power over you to follow through. Otherwise I shudder to think of all the psychologists in your position who would just go along with it. Hell, all the ones who are probably going along with it even if there is no implicit coercion.

    Also, um, does anyone know what the situation is in countries outside the US? Specifically the UK and Republic of Ireland. I admit I’m having some purely selfish concerns about the potential for this to affect ME if I ever got pregnant. Maybe the legal ramifications of the X case actually made it impossible for the state to do this kind of shit in Ireland? *fingers crossed*

  36. Anna
    January 15, 2010 at 6:10 am

    UK – dunno about pregnancy specifically, but if they decide you are of an unsound mental state they can do whatever they like to you regards meds and treatment – and deny you a second opinion.

  37. Alison
    January 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I also cannot say about the uk and republic of ireland. sorry. I’m from Canada and just finished a law class on medical issues, so I should know this for Canada, but I’m not even positive about here. However, though not positive, I’m pretty close to sure that this could not happen in Canada. In cases talking about whether a doctor should have obligations to a fetus as if it is a client, many courts have said yes, but never ever have they said the needs of the fetus can override that of the mother. They say the mother makes all decisions relating to the fetus’ care (including an abortion, but also, it seems any sort if prescription that might harm a fetus, and I really believe also refusing bed rest). I hope I’m right about Canada anyways. This situation is horrifying.

  38. Alison
    January 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

    “as if it is a client,”

    sorry, I meant as if it is a patient

  39. Sacha
    January 15, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’m glad I live in a country where the right of a mentally competent adult to refuse treatment is enshrined in law, and healthcare is free at point of delivery.

  40. Arkady
    January 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Mainland UK has elective abortion up to 24 weeks, and medically indicated (health/life of the mother, foetal abnormality etc) abortion at any point after that. I’ve never heard of any legal cases of this sort in mainland UK, but access to NHS care can be limited and some have to resort to private treatment at places like Marie Stopes clinics.

    Northern Ireland (technically part of the UK, but exempt from the 1967 act that legalised abortion in the rest of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland are a very different matter. Abortion is illegal at any stage except for severe threat to health/life of the mother, and women who are suspected of trying to travel to mainland Britain for the purposes of having an abortion can be legally prevented from leaving the country. This was covered here a while back:

  41. January 15, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I suggest that anyone that is interested in this article needs to watch the documentary called “The Business of Being Born.” It mostly compares and contrasts having a birth in a hospital compared to having a home birth with a midwife and it addresses different issues concerning the two.

  42. Lizzie
    January 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Anna – re “unsound mind” and forced treatment in the UK.

    Yes they can force meds on you if they get that piece of paper. But it takes more than one doctor – which in this story would’ve probably changed the outcome – and more than a cursory glance to do it. My sister is a British cop and says it is tragically hard to get someone committed even when it is obviously necessary because they are trying to kill themselves and dangerous to others (example available on request, at risk of derailing thread). Not saying that’s ideal either but it’s better than locking up a perfectly sane woman for no crime while letting her two living babies starve.

    This horrible story would not have happened in the UK as the incentives are not screwy; doctors treat the person who is in front of them as best they can. The doctor wouldn’t have been so frightened of a lawsuit for failing to enforce treatment if the foetus then died due to patient noncompliance, or of her insurance not paying up for any procedures required due to her noncompliance. So his humanity and respect for the patient’s human rights, if he has any of either, could have trumped his insurance-addled paranoia.

    Plus, in most civilised countries, there’d be SOME services available to the lady to help her in her situtation with the other kids.

  43. MWG
    January 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Was the hospital planning on paying for baby-sitting and cover her lost wages?

  44. William
    January 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    My sister is a British cop and says it is tragically hard to get someone committed even when it is obviously necessary because they are trying to kill themselves and dangerous to others (example available on request, at risk of derailing thread).

    I’d be interested in hearing your example because I’ve heard a lot of cops and docs here moan about how tough it is to get someone committed. From what I’ve seen here most of the difficulty come from the fact that if you need two docs to sign off theres double the chance that one of them might want actual evidence before they sign a cert and have someone put in four-points. Sometimes you even run into a doc who has some trouble with the whole idea of taking someone’s liberty because they want to take their own life.

  45. james
    January 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    “Later, the patient brings a lawsuit and the court rules against her, saying the State of Florida was only trying to maintain the “status quo” of confining pregnant women against their wills to be cared for by antagonistic doctors, which is, of course, for the good of the fetus.”

    That’s basically standard reasoning though isn’t it? You worry that I will do X and want to stop me; but it’s going to take time to have a full court hearing. So rather than giving me the chance to do X before the court can hear the case and make a decision which would prohibit me from taking the action, you can get a preliminary injunction to maintain things as they are until the matter gets a chance to be decided in full.

    I admit I do worry about this. If the case goes in my favour, it does seem spectacularly unfair to have prevented me from doing something with the threat of criminal penalties when what I wanted to do was entirely lawful. It also seems to be unfair that there seems to be no comeback for the abridgement of my rights. I think it’d be better to just let people do stuff and go for them afterwards, rather than try and prevent them and let get people wrongly caught up in it all.

  46. one jewish dyke
    January 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    What is the best way to find out the likelihood of this happening where one lives? I consider my state a much less scary one – and more socialist, with our marriage equality and mandated health insurance and all – but I’m still terrified of what could go wrong if I disagree with my health care providers. In my state there are two birth centers and neither is free-standing. Both are hospital-affiliated. One was forced to agree to continuous Doppler monitoring of women in labor, and the OBs at the hospital decide if the women are transferred to the hospital, not the patients or midwives at the birth center. The other has a high transfer rate from birth center to hospital though ostensibly the midwives have a little more choice. But I’m 35, which supposedly makes me high-risk, and I weigh 15 pounds more than the chart on the wall at the doctor’s office says I should, so I fear that I start out as a “non-compliant” patient. You know, if only I’d met my partner and gotten in a better financial position a decade earlier, and was willing to return to my old anorexic diet for a while. I fear I’ll have no choice but an in-hospital birth with an OB champing at the bit to do a C-section, better yet a planned one that won’t interfere with his regular Friday morning golf game.

  47. Ismone
    January 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    one jewish dyke, Have you considered a home birth with a midwife? If that is something you are comfortable with (you’ll probably have to pay out of pocket) you can avoid alot of ish. (My sister had two home births, and was happy with them, but my mom chose to have us all in a hospital, albeit with a crunchy doc. who pioneered VBACs and liked this french birthing method where the room is quiet and dark and you put the baby into a warm bath right after it is born.)

  48. Johnna Oates
    January 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

    The bed rest thing is up in the air. I am currently an “incubator”, meaning since I was 21 weeks pregnant I have been on bed rest and doing nothing else. I choose bed rest as a precautionary measure, because depending upon the doctor, some say it works, some say it doesn’t. Considering this is my 3rd pregnancy in as many years and my last loss was at 20 weeks gestation, I’m doing everything I can, including having a cerclage, bed rest, and taking p17 shots. None of these methods have been shown across the board to prevent incompetent cervix, but with a combination of these methods, I believe I have been able to carry a pregnancy to at least 31 weeks, allowing for a viable pregnancy.

    On the other hand this case scares me. It scares me due to the government intervention, and it tells me the sad state of workers protection in corporate America. You have to choose between your job or possible health? FMLA is nice, but it doesn’t pay bills, and not everyone has disability insurance, much less health insurance.

  49. Johnna Oates
    January 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

    “Also, you people need better labor laws.

    As a Dutch woman, it’s very weird to me that a person cannot take sickleave from hir job.”


    You are getting to the real heart of the matter on this one.

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