In 2011, Northwell’s Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) forced Rinat Dray to undergo cesarean surgery. Ms. Dray sought to have a vaginal birth for her third child after two previous cesarean surgeries caused her significant pain and grueling postpartum recovery. Despite her repeated refusals to consent to cesarean surgery the hospital and doctors overrode her refusal and subjected her to this major surgery. In response to Ms. Dray’s lawsuit seeking justice for the wrongs she experienced, SIUH has vigorously defended their right to take control of pregnant patients and force them to have medical procedures they don’t want.
In fact, since 2008 SIUH had an explicit written policy (“Managing Maternal Refusals”) that let doctors ignore and override the decisions a pregnant woman makes about her body and her life.
The New York State Department of Health has already found that this policy violates New York’s Patient Bill of Rights. The actions against Ms. Dray also violate medical ethics, the opinion of leading medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and numerous other laws.
As New York’s highest court has ruled:
“Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits an assault for which he is liable in damages.”Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hosp., 105 N.E. 92 (N.Y. 1914)
There is no exception to this principle for human beings who are pregnant.
2. Acknowledge the harms done to Rinat Dray and help her find resolution.
3. Ensure that all Northwell doctors and hospital personnel are trained in their ethical duties to honor the decisions of pregnant patients and to uphold patient rights including a pregnant woman’s right to refuse medical interventions.
4. Establish policies to affirm that women, including pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy, are fully and equally protected in Northwell facilities by the U.S. Constitution, International Human Rights principles, the New York State Patients’ Bill of Rights, and all established common law principles regarding patient consent, privacy and confidentiality.