Northwell Health’s Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) had a policy that allowed medical personnel to override pregnant patients’ wishes and perform unconsented medical procedures. SIUH has claimed that “protecting a viable fetus warrants forcing medical intervention to a pregnant mother despite her refusal to consent.”
Forced interventions on patients, including pregnant patients, violates numerous rights protected by the Constitution, statutes, the common law of every state in the United States, and international human rights principles. When seeking medical care, people deserve to have all of their rights respected. This includes the right to medical decision making, bodily integrity and informed consent. There is no exception to this principle for people who are pregnant.
Northwell Health’s SIUH relies on anti-abortion ideology and insists that being required to follow the law and respect pregnant patients' decision making could “deprive . . . viable, unborn fetuses of their right to live.” This is the argument they are using in court to justify forced surgery on Rinat Dray and in defense of their discriminatory “Managing Maternal Refusals”policy. Rinat Dray was forced to undergo cesarean surgery against her will and without a court order. Rinat’s doctor had written in her medical record, “the woman has decisional capacity. I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section.” Cesarean surgery is recognized to have significant risks and to be unnecessary in many cases. In addition to forcing Rinat to undergo major surgery requiring a long recovery, the doctors also lacerated her bladder.
Forced interventions on patients, including pregnant patients, violates medical ethics. It is also contrary to the opinions of leading medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists specifically instruct health care providers to respect pregnant patients’ decisions. Rinat suffers ongoing trauma from experiencing obstetric violence and being denied her fundamental rights. Yet, she is fighting back on behalf of herself and all other pregnant patients. Rinat has filed a legal action against the physicians and SIUH. In response, Northwell is vigorously defending their policy to take control of pregnant patients and force them to have medical procedures against their will.
Rinat Dray is not alone. One in six women experience mistreatment by health care providers during birth, and the rate of mistreatment increases significantly for women of color.
Rinat carefully chose SIUH because her doctors and the hospital led her to believe that they would respect her decision to have a vaginal birth after cesareans (VBAC). SIUH continues to advertise itself as a place that “cares for mothers who wish to deliver vaginally after having a previous cesarean delivery (VBAC)."
Sign our petition calling on Northwell Health to ensure that all of its employees, including at Staten Island University Hospital, respect and protect the rights of all their patients.
I demand that Northwell Health:
1. Eliminate the policies that authorize forced or coerced medical interventions on patients during pregnancy and childbirth in your 21 hospitals and medical facilities.
2. Make all of your policies managing pregnant patients easily accessible on your website.
3. Acknowledge the harms done to Rinat Dray and help her find resolution.
4. Ensure that all Northwell doctors and hospital personnel are trained in their ethical duties to honor the decisions of pregnant patients at all stages of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to uphold patient rights including the right to refuse medical interventions.
5. 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.