COURT WATCH: Complaint Alleges Failure to Protect Women from Obstetric Violence in Hospitals

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San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by David M. Greenwald

By Vy Tran

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — An alleged victim, going by the alias “Jane Doe,” filed an extensive complaint to the Respiratory Care Board of California, the Medical Board of California, and the California Department of Public Health, detailing an assault following the delivery of her child. 

The complaint said a Sutter Health staff member at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center entered the room, watched her, then ignored her pleas to stop as the staffer allegedly threw a towel over the patient’s eyes before inserting various instruments into her body.

“I was restrained. My legs were splayed,” Jane Doe recalled. She explained she said, “No, I do not want this,” multiple times, but to no avail. 

Doe charged, “It was like a gang rape . . .  he pressed his bare hand into my naked left buttock and then stared at my vagina again. I did not consent to his presence in the room, and I did not consent to being groped in my genital area by a respiratory therapist in the moments after my child was born.”

The allegations are currently listed as sexual assault by a respiratory care therapist, obstetric violence by a physician, and consumer fraud within the establishment, and the plaintiff claims Sutter Health’s legal team has repeatedly declined requests to provide employment records for all defendants implicated in the lawsuit, including Jane Doe’s therapist.  

“(The physician) began to forcefully take out my placenta and then stitch me up without telling me what she was doing, why she was doing it, without any explanation,” Jane Doe testified.  “I had not been informed… I stated that there was excruciating pain, but (they) did nothing about it.”

This case is an indicator of a bigger systemic issue of violence and lack of transparency that is yet to be properly addressed, let alone rectified, the plaintiff alleges, noting even the White House has called for accountability in the release of its “Maternal Health Blueprint” in June, 2022. 

Jane Doe’s complaint detailed the statistics on the frequency of these types of violations, noting,  “In a recent CDC survey, a staggering 20 percent of women reported mistreatment while receiving maternity care, a statistic that is in line with data from a robust investigation into the problem. Mistreatment and violations of patient rights during birth are also widely accepted.”

The complaint adds a 2019 report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls stated, “Violence against women in childbirth is so normalized that it is not (yet) considered violence against women.”

In the meantime, there is a separate lawsuit against Sutter Health and its midwives and physicians involved, said the complaint, citing charges of fraudulent deceit; negligent misrepresentation; medical battery; sexual battery; abuse of a dependent adult; false imprisonment; intentional infliction of emotional distress; violation of California’s constitutional right to privacy; invasion of privacy; negligent hiring, supervision, and retention; gender-related violence; loss of consortium; and medical malpractice.

Doe’s lawyers said this parallel lawsuit highlights Sutter Health’s false advertising and promotional materials, intentionally luring expecting mothers who want a low to no intervention natural birth. However, such as the case with Jane Doe, when they arrive, they get something other than what was promised.

“The case of Jane Doe is particularly troubling because Ms. Doe reports saying no again and again without any healthcare provider listening to her or advocating for her, as is our clinical and ethical duty,” stated Emiliano Chavira, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) with subspecialty training and certification in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. 

She continued in her expert witness testimony, “Healthcare providers have a duty to do no harm. That duty was grossly breached in Ms. Doe’s case throughout her clinical course. Critically, the medical record makes clear that neither a c-section nor a vacuum delivery were indicated.”

“Listen to Jane Doe,” said Doe’s attorney, Julie Cantor, in a cover letter attached to the complaint. “Swift and decisive action is needed, lest other unsuspecting patients who reasonably rely on Sutter Health’s promises suffer precisely the same brand of birth trauma that Sutter Health and its personnel inflicted upon Ms. Doe.”

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About The Author

Vy Tran is a 4th-year student at UCLA pursuing a B.A. in Political Science--Comparative Politics and a planned minor in Professional Writing. Her academic interests include political theory, creative writing, copyediting, entertainment law, and criminal psychology. She has a passion for the analytical essay form, delving deep into correlational and description research for various topics, such as constituency psychology, East-Asian foreign relations, and narrative theory within transformative literature. When not advocating for awareness against the American carceral state, Vy constantly navigates the Internet for the next wave of pop culture trends and resurgences. That, or she opens a blank Google doc to start writing a new romance fiction on a whim, with an açaí bowl by her side.

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