More Than Just Rude Behavior: The Rest of Catherine Skol's Allegations

 

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A Chicago woman filed a civil suit against obstetrician Scott Pierce, M.D. for his treatment of her during the birth of her daughter nine months ago. The comment sections of blogs and online publications are on fire with scathing accusations of how Catherine Skol, the plaintiff, is introducing a frivolous lawsuit and causing malpractice premiums rates to soar because, according to one commenter, “She looks fine the baby looks fine end of story.”

 And that, my friends, is how we all sit back and allow the c-section and induction rates to go through the roof. A medical treatment on a pregnant woman has been performed. She is alive. The baby is alive. The family should be grateful because they could have real problems. Right?

If these allegations are true, Catherine Skol, her husband and her baby were the victims of sadistic abuse at the hands of an angry obstetrician. In this case, the public cry for Skol to “get over herself” exemplifies the cultural acceptance of the misogynistic underpinnings of medicalized birth.

Before writing the case off as another person looking for a payout, read the complaint filed against Scott Pierce, who lists the following as his “Mission and Objectives” on his Web site:

 

  • Treating patients promptly and with compassion.
  • Providing the personal touch of a solo physician.
  • Spending the time necessary so that patients can understand treatment plans.
  • Keeping up to date with innovations in the medical field.

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From: CATHERINE SKOL, Plaintiff, v. SCOTT PIERCE, M.D., RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER d/b/a RUSH-PRESBYTERIAN-ST. LUKE’S MEDICAL CENTER, and DRS. PILDES and PIERCE, S.C, Defendants

[Begin excerpt]

 

Labor & Delivery Process

17. At 4 a.m. on March 1, 2008, Plaintiff’s contractions were eight minutes apart. She and her husband Larry proceeded to the Emergency Department at Rush Medical Center. Upon arrival, Plaintiff met Meagan Hansen, M.D. (hereinafter referred to as “Dr. Hansen”), the resident assigned to her. Dr. Hansen called Defendant Pierce, the obstetrician, who had agreed to deliver Plaintiff’s baby in Dr. Weitzner’s absence.

18. Dr. Hansen checked the Plaintiff and told her she was dilated to four centimeters. Dr. Hansen recommended that the Plaintiff get an epidural immediately.

19. Dr. Hansen contacted Defendant Pierce at approximately 4:00 – 4:15 a.m.

20. Plaintiff could hear Dr. Hansen’s side of the conversation with Defendant Pierce. She could tell Defendant Pierce was argumentative with Dr. Hansen when she told him that Plaintiff was dilated four to five centimeters. Defendant Pierce wanted to know if it was four or five centimeters. Dr. Hansen rechecked Plaintiff and told Defendant Pierce it was closer to four centimeters.

21. Defendant Pierce apparently wants patients to call him first before proceeding to the emergency room at Rush Medical Center, which is not a Rush hospital policy.

22. Plaintiff was moved to labor and delivery when she had dilated to six centimeters. She was being attended to by Rhonda Stankiewicz, R.N. (hereinafter referred to as “Nurse Stankiewicz”) and Dr. Hansen. Both Nurse Stankiewicz and Dr. Hansen agreed that the time was right for an epidural. Nurse Stankiewicz called anesthesia for the epidural.

 

Meeting Defendant Pierce

23. At approximately 8:10 a.m., Defendant Pierce arrived. He approached the Plaintiff, who read his name and saw the Rush Medical Center logo on his jacket. Plaintiff believed Defendant Pierce was an employee of Rush Medical Center. He immediately stated, “Did you call anyone before you came in?” Plaintiff perceived that he was very angry. Plaintiff responded that her instructions from Dr. Weitzner were to come down to the Emergency Room if she went into labor since Dr. Weitzner was out of town for the weekend. Dr. Weitzner had not instructed her to call first. Defendant Pierce responded with words to the effect of, “By law someone has to cover for the doctor. And people need to plan. You should know better since this is your fifth child. You should have come in sooner at ten to fifteen minute contractions rather than eight minutes.” Defendant Pierce complained that he had to arrive in a matter of minutes but it had been over four hours since he was first called. His drive took approximately eighteen minutes.

24. At all relevant times Plaintiff believed Defendant Pierce was employed by Rush Medical Center because of his jacket with the Rush logo. Plaintiff believe that she was in good hands because Rush described their medical services in advertisements as follows: “It’s how medicine should be.”

25. Over the next two to two and a half hours, Defendant Pierce would not let the patient have an epidural or any other pain medication. He told Plaintiff and her husband that the baby would be born in ten minutes, which he knew or should have known was false, given Plaintiff’s degree of dilation. Even after the baby was not born in ten minutes, Defendant Pierce still didn’t let her have an epidural or any other pain medication, just letting her suffer all that time unnecessarily.

26. Dependant Pierce repositioned the Plaintiff in the stirrups so that her toes were turned in (pigeon toed) and her buttocks were no longer on the table. This positioning required Plaintiff to support herself with her arms. Despite her repeated requests to be repositioned because her right leg was cramping, and she had two herniated disks in her back, Defendant Pierce refused and made her remain in this position until he left the room after the delivery.

27. Defendant Pierce would not answer any of the Plaintiff’s questions and would interrupt her repeated saying “Shut up, close your mouth, and push.”

28. At one point during the delivery, Plaintiff was in the middle of a very strong contraction when Defendant Pierce decided to perform a vaginal exam. Plaintiff specifically stated, “No. Stop!” Defendant Pierce refused and performed a very rough vaginal exam causing Plaintiff extreme pain.

29. Defendant Pierce proceeded to ask for a “hook” and break Plaintiff’s water bag. Defendant Pierce told Dr. Hansen that the water bag broke spontaneously, without admitting that he artificially ruptured Plaintiff’s membranes with a hook. Defendant Pierce again stated that the baby was going to be here in ten minutes.

 

Predicted Hemorrhage

30. Defendant Pierce told the Plaintiff that she was probably going to hemorrhage and that the blood had better be ordered. At that time, the chances that the baby was going to be born in ten minutes were zero. The chances that Plaintiff was going to hemorrhage were not increased, as she was not a grand multipara.

31. Plaintiff was extremely frightened by the statements. Defendant Pierce specifically stated that both she and her unborn baby might die. Plaintiff had experienced a stillbirth several years before which was very traumatic for her and her husband.

32. After the room was prepared for delivery, Defendant Pierce took a seat on a stool between Plaintiff’s legs at her perineum and requested that Dr. Hansen sit next to him. Defendant Pierce began cross-examining Dr. Hansen in an extremely rude and aggressive manner that Plaintiff found distressing.

 

Cell Phone Calls About Abortion During Delivery

33. Defendant Pierce then took a phone call from a resident on his cell phone. Defendant Pierce proceeded to talk at great length during his phone call about an abortion he was going to be performing that day. Defendant Pierce scolded the resident on the other end of the call for taking heart tones on a baby that the resident was about to abort. The conversation was overheard by everyone in the room, because Defendant Pierce spoke in a very loud voice.

34. Plaintiff was shocked by Defendant Pierce’s statements and continued to feel fearful for her life and that of her unborn child.

35. Despite Plaintiff’s request to see the fetal monitor so she could control her pushing, Defendant Pierce would not allow her to see it. When Nurse Stankiewicz tried to turn the monitor so the Plaintiff could see, Defendant Pierce yelled at her to stop. He said, “Do not help her.”

36. Defendant Pierce repeatedly said words to the effect of, “there is only one voice in this room and it is mine.” No one else was permitted to speak. When the Plaintiff tried to ask questions she was again told to, “shut up, shut your mouth and push.”

37. Defendant Pierce, by keeping the Plaintiff in the stirrups for at least 1 ½ hours, greatly increased her risk of deep vein thrombosis, in addition to greatly increasing her physical pain.

38. Despite Defendant Pierce’s representations that the Plaintiff was dilated to eight centimeters at 8:15 a.m. when he left the room one hour after that, Dr. Hansen checked Plaintiff and said she was barely dilated to eight centimeters at that point.

39. Despite Plaintiff’s statements to Defendant Pierce that her other children had been delivered when she was dilated to ten centimeters; he continued to insist she push, saying words to the effect of, “eight, nine, ten had nothing to do with it.”

40. Defendant Pierce continued with his cell phone calls, calling people “assholes” and telling someone to “kiss my ass.” He made comments such as “that stupid woman, she has no business being pregnant.”

41. Despite Plaintiff begging him to wait for the contraction to end, stating, “I’m in the middle of a contraction,” Defendant Pierce inserted a catheter during one of Plaintiff’s contractions, which was extremely painful for Plaintiff.

 

Threats of a Cesarean Section

42. Defendant Pierce told Plaintiff, “this baby is coming out or it’s not” putting Plaintiff in fear of either fetal distress or a cesarean. Defendant Pierce kept asking Nurse Stankiewicz “did you order enough blood? Because she is going to hemorrhage.” Plaintiff found this terrifying. Dr. Hansen stated words to the effect of, “she probably won’t need blood.” Defendant Pierce responded with words to the effect of, “she will hemorrhage.”

43. Finally, at approximately 10:23 a.m., on March 1, 2008, Plaintiff experienced an uncontrolled delivery which caused a three centimeter right periurethral laceration. Defendant Pierce caught the baby by her arm and leg almost dropping her. Defendant Pierce held the baby up by one arm and leg for everyone to see.

44. Plaintiff asked to hold the baby. Defendant Pierce said, “no.” When Plaintiff’s husband asked to hold the baby, Defendant Pierce said, “No, the mother always holds the baby first.”

 

Post Delivery Laceration Repair

45. Defendant Pierce asked for a 25 gauge needle to inject the local anesthetic. A 25 gauge needle is not even stocked on the obstetrics floor. The head nurse brought the needle to Defendant but stated that such a needle was not used in obstetrics and was only used to do spinal taps.

46. Defendant Pierce proceeded to stitch the Plaintiff without adequate anesthesia. Each stitch was excruciatingly painful, Defendant Pierce requested that Plaintiff’s husband hold the Plaintiff down because she was squirming in pain. Not knowing what else to do, Plaintiff’s husband held her down.

47. The Plaintiff repeatedly asked for pain medication during and after the delivery and the laceration repair. Defendant Pierce repeatedly denied the Plaintiff any pain medication. Defendant Pierce was very rough when he cleaned Plaintiff after the stitching, jabbing her with a sponge.

48. After Defendant Pierce left the room, Nurse Stankiewicz finally gave Plaintiff some pain medication which had been ordered by Dr. Hansen

49. When Plaintiff was wheeled out of the delivery room several people had gathered outside of her door because they had been alarmed by her screaming. Plaintiff had never screamed during the delivery of her other four children nor had she ever experienced the excruciating pain and abuse inflicted on her by Defendant Pierce.

 

“Pain is the Best Teacher”

50. Defendant Pierce told Nurse LeJeune Dixon-Pickett that the Plaintiff deserved to feel pain because she had not called before coming in and that sometimes “pain is the best teacher.”

51. Defendant Pierce never visited the Plaintiff during her entire postpartum hospital stay, in violation of hospital policy.

 

[End Excerpt]

 

Imagine the disenfranchised grief that Skol’s husband is experiencing having to rehash his participation in pinning his own wife down while another man ignored her pain and stitched her vulva, only to later hear that man say that Catherine Skol deserved to feel that pain because she had not called before coming to the hospital.

 

But the Medical Malpractice Rates! The Shortage of Obstetricians!

Many comments on various articles expressed disgust over the introduction of yet another lawsuit into the system. Payouts on claims are only one factor driving up the cost of insurance premiums. Market conditions, such as the current recession, play a significant role in the rising cost of malpractice insurance.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office maintains that losses on medical malpractice claims is just one of the factors that causes premium rate hikes.

Insurers invest premiums in the market. When investment income is high, insurance can be offered at a lower price than the expected cost of paying claims. Good market conditions—lower rates. Bad market conditions—higher rates.

A long lag between collecting premiums and paying claims affects rates as well. Insurers hold their premium rates down even while underlying losses are increasing. As a result, large rate hikes are required when the trend in losses is recognized.

 

Fear of being sued is cited as the main reason for the high cesarean rate in the U.S. If it’s litigation that brings about change in practice, then Catherine Skol is doing all women and families a favor in filing this suit. Good luck to you and your family, Catherine.