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Did a mom REALLY loose her baby due to refusal to consent to a cesarean?

When I last blogged on this topic, I said in the comments:

Right now I’m not willing to string the appellate court as far up a pole as many people are doing…but I’m also not willing to say that what I have seen proves that V.M. and B.G. would be fit parents, and are entirely victims of the system. I’m just troubled.

At this point, as I see the story spreading through cyber space, I’m going to get off the fence and take a position.

I can see, based on reading the court documents, that even though refusal of cesarean was part of the lower court’s reasoning for citing abuse, the appellate court clearly felt that even if that situation were not considered, there was still ample evidence to keep the child in protective custody.  I believe that the mother displayed strong signs of psychiatric problems.  Some people have argued that this woman’s psychiatric history would not have been put under a microscope if she hadn’t refused a cesarean, but I’m not so sure that this is true.  I believe that her behavior after the birth–both in the hospital and after discharge–makes it reasonable to assume that her over-all affect and behavior were troubling–and to be sure, from talking to L&D nurses, I think that they *expect* women in labor to be thrashing around and screaming.  They always seem surprised and shocked when I’ve got a client who is handling contractions calmly.

But is it necessarily wrong to ensure that a mother with a psychiatric history is receiving adequate treatment?  I’m sure the health care workers in a recent case in Texas wish they had known in advance about the mother’s psychiatric condition (warning, the article I link to is very graphic).

I do not believe that refusal of cesarean, in and of itself, would have caused the hospital officials to notify social services–I think that the refusal of cesarean (more precisely, the manner in which it was refused) was a *part* of the decision, but not the whole of it.

So again…I am glad that the appellate court ruling (in the “concurring opinion,” which does set legal precedent) specific spoke against the lower court decision that refusing a cesarean was child abuse.   That said, I do hope that this couple continues to appeal the decision, if for no other reason than to get the wording completely cleared up about a mother’s right to choose her medical care in labor without fear of being charged with child abuse.  I also hope and pray, with all my heart, that V.M. and B.G. get the psychological help that they need in order to be reunited with their daughter.

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Posted in Home 4 years, 8 months ago at 3:43 pm.

2 comments

2 Replies

  1. It seems from the per curiam decision that, though the trial court relied on V’s refusal to determine her fitness as a parent, the appellate division avoided the issue and found that sufficient other evidence of her negligence was presented at trial to make the point moot. Concurring, Presiding Judge Carchman wrote that the lower court’s consideration of her informed refusal of c-section was “improper and beyond the legislative scope of the child protective statutes.”

    Certainly, it is a terrifying prospect to consider that DYFS may come in two days after the birth of a child whose mother refused c-section or any other intervention. However, it would seem that the appellate division, though it did not find sufficient evidence to reverse the trial court’s decision to terminate parental rights, agrees with what I assume is the position of most birth activists in the state that an assessment of mental status based on the refusal to consent to cesarean section is inappropriate.

    I am writing as a birth activist and as the girlfriend of a Mercer County family law attorney, so I have at least a passing interest in both aspects of this case. What is the goal that the natural birth community wishes to attain with respect to these decisions? Have the parties’ backgrounds been researched enough that we are sure we want this as a test case for this issue in New Jersey and elsewhere?

  2. I think this was a very interesting post thanks for writing it!


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