Doctor Threatens Police Action if Pregnant Woman Doesn’t Report for C-Section

A Florida woman found herself in the unusual position earlier this week of receiving an email from her obstetrician in which the doctor threatened to send police to her home if she refused to come to the hospital for an immediate cesarean section to deliver her fifth child.  Lisa Epsteen had delivered her four previous children by cesarean, but had enlisted the help of Dr. Jerry Yankowitz, chairman of the University of South Florida’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, to attempt the high-risk process of vaginal-birth-after-cesarean (VBAC).

Epsteen was ultimately able to schedule her surgery for March 8, as she wanted, days after she received the email from Yankowitz stating, according to the Tampa Bay Times:

“I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery,” Yankowitz wrote.

“I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice,” he continued.

After contacting advocacy groups, Epsteen was able to delay the surgery and avoid police action.  The Times reports:

Yankowitz was frank with Epsteen about the risks she faced after four caesareans, she said. They met multiple times during her pregnancy, and he stayed in touch by email.

In their last meeting on Friday, she said he urged her to think about his recommendation that she have a caesarean. Epsteen had developed gestational diabetes, another risk factor, plus the baby was not in a good position for a vaginal delivery.

When an ultrasound Tuesday showed the fetus in possible distress, other USF physicians sent her directly to Tampa General and wanted to deliver right then.

But she questioned their alarm. Besides, she couldn’t leave her 2-year-old son with strangers. She was driving the family’s only car, so her husband, a team leader at a call center, couldn’t get to her.

“In Dr. Yankowitz’s defense, and all of the other physicians there, I don’t think they are trying to cover themselves. I think they really do have the best interests of my child and myself at heart,” she added. “On the other hand, this is not the way to go about protecting my baby or me.”

Yankowitz was named the USF chair of obstetrics and gynecology in late 2010. He is one of the few doctors in the nation who is doubly certified in genetics and maternal fetal medicine, according to the USF website. His areas of expertise include ultrasound diagnostics.

After the lawyer got involved, Yankowitz sent a subsequent email saying he wouldn’t send law enforcement to Epsteen’s home. “I personally recognize and respect your right to make the medical treatment decisions for both you and your unborn child. . . . In that regard, please understand my frustration as I truly believe you and your child are in jeopardy.”

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  1. by NotSurprised

    On March 8, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    THis is toatlly ridiculous! They tried pulling that bs with me, too, due to breach. Doctors can give you their best medical opinion, but the final decision is up to the pregnant women. Period. Threatening someone with legal action will do nothing, but make you look bad. Period.

  2. by Sarah

    On March 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Ridiculous…maybe. But isn’t it ridiculous to endanger your unborn baby’s life, as well as your own just because things hasn’t turned out as you planned? And how many women after having a baby born with problems or worse, die, will turn around and sue to place the blame on the dr? A lot. Women have rights about themselves and their babies, but even if its their 10th baby, unless they are also an obstetrician with years of experience, the dr has still delivered FAR more babies and has way more insight into what needs to happen.

  3. by NICUnurse

    On March 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    So, where’s the update on the delivery? Obviously, the baby is now 2 days old, yes?
    It’s unfortunate that this article doesn’t talk about the ACOG guidelines for VBACs. This situation comes down to the woman ignoring medical advisement. The way the OB went about trying to convince his patient of the gravity of the situation is obviously wrong. However, I can understand the frustration he must have felt. Two lives in his hands are on the line, and the one in charge of the other is refusing his advice. Not too mention, this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. What are the chances the baby will born totally healthy?? Definitely NOT 100%. Would YOU want to be the OB that delivers this baby?
    OBs have clear guidelines for VBACs and high-risk deliveries. This woman was obese, had gestational diabetes, was overdue, and had 4 previous c-sections. Those are enough to negate VBACs alone. At some point patients need to understand the consequences of refusing medical advice. She CHOSE to take a chance with the life of her unborn AND AT RISK fetus. By rights, the OB should be allowed to present a form to her to sign that she understands the consequences of her actions therby releasing the OB from all responsibility of any untoward outcomes to her or her child.
    What does anyone expect physicians to do when patients refuse to follow their advice?
    I’m sure her husband would have been allowed to leave his job if his wife was about to undergo an emergent c-section.??