Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why there's a shortage of Obstetricians

I can be hard on obstetricians. My first OB, hearing the list of medical interventions I didn't want for my first daughter's birth, as well as my reasons why, nicknamed me, "the professor". After Gabbi's birth, which had required nearly all of the banned procedures, he asked me how he did. "Fine, I replied, exhausted, "at least we didn't get to number 10, the C-section." He smiled. I missed his jovial attitude, and that of his partner, a lovely young woman, who delivered Isabella, when I moved out East, and went to a huge, anonymous practice, where I didn't know who was to deliver Christina until I was in the hospital. This is crazy, I thought, and began searching for a good, Catholic physician who wouldn't participate in procedures banned by the Church, or refer for abortions.
Some might say my standards are impossibly high . Most obstetricians make a living out of contraception prescriptions, as ironic as this may seem. After seeking the advice of mothers of large families, I found Dr. Scanlon, a man whom I can count on NOT to ask me, "so, which form of birth control are you using?" The fact that his office is over an hour away doesn't bother me. He, in our get acquainted interview, passed my highest standard, by asking me for my phone number to give out if one of his patients is expecting a child with Down syndrome. I was going to offer, as I have fruitlessly so many times in the past, to be available to talk to other parents, but Dr. Scanlon, who volunteers one day a week at Life Center, asked me first. Did I mention that he spends two week of his vacation time in Nigeria delivering babies? The man is on the road to sainthood, all right, no wonder Catholic women come from far and near to his practice. That is what we expect from an obstetrician. An honest and moral man with high professional standards. Here is a list of such physicians.

Other parents, it seems, have different expectations. They expect a perfect child. A couple in Florida has just received a $21 million settlement because their physician failed to deliver their perfect child. This amount of money was paid by the doctor's malpractice insurance. My first obstetrician told me in 1993 that his annual malpractice premium was $180,000.Fourteen years ago! Just how much money do you have to earn to make a living on top of that?

Daniel and Amara Estrada have two sons who are both physically handicapped
with the same genetic disorder, Smith-Lemli-Opitz, which does not allow them to
properly synthesize cholesterol. The children have difficulty walking and must
be fed through a feeding tube. They also have smaller heads and other physical
After the first son was born, the couple's doctor, Boris
Kousseff, from the University of South Florida (USF), told them that they would
be able to have other normal children and did not diagnose the problem as
hereditary. Consequently, when their second son Caleb was born with the same
disorder, the couple sued the doctor and USF.
"He says you have the same chance of anyone else in society of having a normal child. He doesn't tell the truth," said the family's attorney Christian Searcy, Tampa Bay My Fox reports.
The judge ruled that the couple will receive over $21 million dollars in
recompense for the negligence of the doctor.
The couple claimed that if they had had a proper diagnosis after the birth of their first child in 2002, they could have determined by a pregnancy test that the second son Caleb had the same disorder. According to the lawsuit, if the couple had known this, they would have aborted him, the Associated Press reports

Naturally, my heart goes out to the Estradas, and their sons. I know what it is to have a disabled child. I haven't decided not to have another, my age seems to have decided that, but if I could become pregnant again, whether the child would have Down syndrome, would certainly be on my mind. But would I blame the obstetrician for not giving me proper warning to terminate his life? Never. It's not his call. God sends the babies, and we receive them. Period. I know this is not very 21st century of me, but it is very Catholic. I wonder if the Estradas have a church, and what advice, if any. they received from their pastor. I also wonder how they plan to explain where they got Caleb's treatment fund. I pray that he never reads this article.

Once a friend of mine wanted to sue Planned Parenthood for a botched tubal ligation; after the procedure (which I begged her not to have) she had gotten pregnant. For a while, the enticing thought of recouping millions from that villainous organization clouded my thoughts, and I searched for a top-notch malpractice lawyer. Then reality began to dawn, and I realized that someday little Maria might find out why her parents have a nice trust fund for her. Because she wasn't supposed to have been conceived. And I couldn't do that to her.

So, now medical students are afraid to enter the field of obstetrics, because of settlements like this one. They are supposed to assure the parents that they will deliver them a healthy baby, or at least offer fair warning so that the child can be aborted. This is why my obstetrician didn't tell me personally that Christina had Down syndrome, and seemed terrified of me the day after the birth, when I did know. I thanked him that she was 9.9 on the Apgar scale, which was his job, and told him her diagnoses was God' doing, and if I had a complaint, I would take it up with Him. He was vastly relieved.

When technology offers false hope that all anomalies can be detected before birth, when babies are products promised on brochures, a creeping mentality of the baby as product leads to the Estrada case. And fewer young doctors willing to take the risk of bringing new life into the world.


Anita Moore said...

There's no question about it, my profession has a lot to answer for, and especially the plaintiff's bar. When people complain about the high cost of health care, nobody ever brings up this subversion of the court system and the transformation of it into a huge extortion racket. It's one of the big reasons I am dying to get out of the civil practice.

And, of course, my profession is also responsible for the abominations of "wrongful birth" and "wrongful life" actions, which were utterly foreign to the common law. St. Thomas More, beg God's mercy on judges and lawyers.

Leticia said...

I agree with you, but I don't lay the blame on the honest attorney does litigation; my father is an attorney too! I blame scoundrels like John Edwards who made millions over birth lawsuits.

Anita Moore said...

Once, at a public gathering of lawyers, some individuals from the plaintiff's bar were complaining about how tort reform deprives plaintiffs of their "right" to recover all the damages due to them. I got fed up with this, and raised my hand and said, in just about so many words: can we be honest here? This is not about the right of plaintiffs to recover; it's about attorney fees.

I did not emerge from that gathering surrounded by love.

Leticia said...

You are so brave! I'll bet you had daggers coming at you from all directions!
My father is getting involved with the Red Mass here on Long Island as a way to encourage lawyers to listen to their faith when they practice. Maybe there's one where you live.

Anita Moore said...

My father is getting involved with the Red Mass here on Long Island as a way to encourage lawyers to listen to their faith when they practice. Maybe there's one where you live.

Alas and alack, there is no Red Mass here. The majority of lawyers here are Mormon; few Catholics (and I am 50% of all the Dominican lawyers in the entire state). But I would be interested in looking into the possibility of getting such Catholic lawyers as we have here hopped up about a Red Mass; is there a good source of information on it?

Monica said...

Leticia, this is so important. Just touching on one sort of peripheral angle here, I wonder why we aren't more organized and and pro-active about the next generation of pro-life medical professionals.

You know, we have a million different pro-life groups, but I don't think we have a single fund for helping to ensure we have the next generation of OB-Gyn's. It would be great to see scholarships/grants for young men and woment to train with the Dr Hilgers' of the world, or the Dr. De Lia's, or the Dr Thomas Murphy Goodwin's. The latter are working in very secular environments. They show that what really counts is excellence. When you are the best, you pro-life postition doesn't have to be an "impediment". That's what we need to be encouraging, in my opinio.