In a recent Huffington Post piece, Louise Marie Roth, PhD., tells the horrifying story of a mother who, during a normal, full-term birth, refused to have a c-section–against medical advice. The mother (V.M.), was accused by hospital staff of being irrational and erratic. Her refusal to have a c-section (an invasive procedure she felt *rightly* was unnecessary) was later used as evidence in a case that resulted in the termination of her parental rights.
There are so many threads to this story (and others like it), I am overwhelmed by the possibilities! It seems that a series is in order. So, for the next few Fridays, I will take up a discussion of Dr. Roth’s post and its implications for choice and for the pro-choice movement. I also have a lot to say about some of the points she doesn’t make. Its a great post, don’t get me wrong. But there is so much going on here that she could not have possibly covered it all. I invite you, dear readers, to join in the discussion! Chime in, let me know what you think!
So here goes: How does Roth’s assertion that women giving birth are, in many cases, forced or pushed into having unnecessary (and often dangerous) procedures by medical personnel play into the current debate over health care reform? If she is correct (and there is ample evidence to suggest that she is), how much do these procedures add to the overall cost of medical care in the U.S. and why aren’t unnecessary procedures/treatments a part of the debate on Capital Hill?
To be clear–The money associated with health care reform is not a top concern for me. Especially where the rights of patients to make health care decisions are concerned, cost is one of the last things I am worried about. But the right is fighting comprehensive health care reform that includes a public option for coverage based, in large part, on the projected costs. So, despite my belief that cost containment is not the biggest issue for Congress and the President to consider where health care reform is concerned, I think it makes sense to talk about unnecessary medical procedures forced on pregnant women in terms of costs.
According to Costhelper.com, the average cost (for an uninsured patient) to give birth ranges from $9,000-$17000 if the birth is vaginal, depending on complications and geographical location. A C-section costs an average $14,000-$25,000. For argument’s sake, we will go with the midrange of each–$13,000 for a vaginal birth and $19,500 for a C-section. That’s a difference of $6,500 EACH!
Why isn’t Congress talking about this? Because, my friends, Congress (even most of the Democrats) are so wrapped up in the ideological extremes involved in this debate, no one is offering any real solutions. The left is (rightly, though in a very shortsighted way) beating the drum for coverage for all, while the right is shrilly, though consistently hammering away at the notion that the left’s plan will take health care decisions out of the hands of patients and place them in the hands of The Government.
Let’s ask the woman who loses custody of her kids for refusing a C-section who gets to make health care decisions. Yes, she got to make hers–but at what cost? What did she give up to be able to refuse an invasive surgical procedure? How many women don’t stand up to the doctors and go through with the surgery? How many women are given procedures that they don’t understand or that they don’t really want because doctors don’t trust women to decide for themselves? Of course, the anti-choice, anti-woman movement doesn’t give a hoot whether women get to make their own health care choices–they are perfectly happy to impose all sorts of government restrictions so that choice is totally out of the hands of women–but they’ll be damned if the “socialists” in congress are going to make them pay for it!
Stay tuned, dear readers. This is an excellent case study–it is a great place for us to start talking about why real choice matters–why women’s health care decisions must be made by us and why women should have access to reliable, comprehensive medical information so that we can make informed decisions–decisions that aren’t made at the worst possible times, like during a difficult delivery.