Today thousands of New Yorkers and others in the U.S. and from around the world are demanding that Northwell Health eliminate policies and practices that authorize forced or coerced medical interventions on pregnant patients in their facilities. Through a petition organized by Pregnancy Justice and delivered today to Northwell’s CEO and Board of Trustees, thousands of people join in calling on Northwell to ensure that no pregnant patient is again denied her constitutional and statutory rights to medical decision-making and bodily integrity as Rinat Dray was at Northwell's Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH).
Eight years after being forced to have cesarean surgery which injured her bladder, Rinat Dray has sued but has not received justice. The hospital and personnel who carried out the damaging surgery continue to defend their actions on the same grounds asserted in the recent prosecution of Marshae Jones in Alabama – that a pregnant woman has no right to put an “unborn” child in a dangerous situation. In the prosecution of Ms. Jones the dangerous situation was being pregnant and the victim of a shooting; in the Dray case it was being pregnant and continuing her labor rather than consenting to cesarean surgery.
The actions taken against Ms. Dray were authorized by SIUH’s written policy entitled “Managing Maternal Refusals” that allowed doctors and hospital counsel to override the decisions a pregnant woman makes about her body and her life. In 2018 The New York State Department of Health found that this policy violates New York’s Patients’ Bill of Rights, and directed SIUH to correct the violation.
The petition calls on Northwell to:
1. Immediately rescind all “Managing Maternal Refusal” and similar policies in Northwell’s hospital system and make any new policies addressing “maternal refusal” public.
2. Acknowledge the harms done to Rinat Dray and help her find resolution.
3. Ensure that all Northwell doctors and hospital personnel are trained in their ethical duties to honor the decisions of pregnant patients and to uphold patient rights including a pregnant woman’s right to refuse medical interventions.
4. 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.
Unfortunately, in New York and all over the world, women experience violence and disrespect during pregnancy and birth. The first ever community led study on experience of childbirth care in the United States, released in June, found that one in six women — regardless of race — experience mistreatment by health care providers during birth. Incidents of mistreatment are higher for women of color.
Northwell Health is the largest health care system in New York State and it should lead New York and the world in ensuring that pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy are fully and equally protected by the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Patients’ Bill of Rights, and legal principles regarding patient consent, privacy and confidentiality.
For more information or to speak with a representative from the Pregnancy Justice legal team, please contact: Shawn Steiner, SCS@AdvocatesforPregnantWomen.org, 917.497.3037