On Monday, December 4th four justices of the Appellate Division of New York Supreme Court heard arguments in the Dray case. Rinat Dray is a mother who is suing Staten Island University Hospital and doctors there because, pursuant to a secret (not disclosed to patients) hospital policy, they forced her to have cesarean surgery even though she clearly refused.
At issue in the case is the question of whether hospitals and doctors may force a pregnant woman to undergo medical procedures over her objection, and the question of whether the existing judicial system is really available to women who seek redress for forced and unconsented-to medical interventions.
Michael Bast, Ms. Dray’s attorney, argued on her behalf. Other lawyers argued on behalf of Staten Island University Hospital and a doctor named in the suit. We cannot predict how the court will rule, but it is likely we will receive the court’s decision in two to three months. No matter what the decision is, the case will not be over. Further appeals and a trial on some issues are likely.
Some disturbing highlights from the oral argument include:
• The suggestion from at least one judge that it would require “new” law to establish that pregnant women are included in the protection of the 1914 decision in Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital from New York State’s highest court -- holding that “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body;”
• The hospital attorney’s statement that a “woman does not have an unfettered right to choose;” and
• The argument from the hospital attorney that the hospital’s failure to inform or engage a patient advocate for Ms. Dray was not important because the purpose of a patient advocate is not to advocate on behalf of the patient but instead to help the patient “cope” with the doctor’s decision.
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the court argument and to demonstrate support for Ms. Dray and the rights and dignity of all pregnant women.
NAPW will let you know when the court issues a decision. And we will be in touch about further actions that we can take to advance the civil and human rights of pregnant women in New York and around the country.