Dying for a C-Section While in Excruciating Labour Pain

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The heated debate on medical rights is still raging in China after a woman who was suffering excruciating pain in labour and was denied a C-section took her own life a week ago.

Facts:

  • Woman suffered more than a day of excruciating labour pain
  • Mother-in-law urged victim to “persevere”
  • Nurse tried to grab the victim at the last second when she jumped out of window but was unable to hold on
  • Paramedics only went to the scene where the body landed 21 minutes later

Allegations:

  • Hospital claimed had recommended C-section, but family refused to permit – hospital has form signed by husband as proof
  • Husband later claimed doctors said C-section not needed, that he had twice given permission
  • Family claimed CCTV footage showing woman kneeling was due to pain, not to plead for C-section
  • Hospital claimed family believed in myths – that doctors love to do surgery to charge more, and second pregnancy following C-section more “complicated”
  • Speculation that the family were “too cheap” to pay for C-section

Chinese social media is still in an uproar over the case of a pregnant woman who committed suicide after her family refused to allow her to have a C-section. In the case’s latest revelation, the hospital where the woman leapt out of a fifth-floor window has been charged with “negligence” by local investigators.

Ma Rongrong, 26, checked into the maternity ward of the First Hospital of Yulin at 6pm last Wednesday, already more than 41 weeks pregnant. According to a statement from the hospital which went viral on Tuesday, doctors examined Ma and found that the fetal head was very large, meaning that vaginal delivery would likely be risky, so they recommended a C-section delivery instead.

However, the woman’s family insisted on a natural birth, repeatedly refusing to give their permission for a caesarean, the statement said, adding that the woman herself twice came out of the maternity ward on Thursday to plead with her family, explaining to them that the pain was becoming just too much for her to bear. Still, the family refused to relent.

Weibo

In China, a family member must give consent before a patient undergoes surgery. In addition, Ma also had signed an authorisation letter to transfer power of attorney to her husband on the day she went into the hospital. The doctors’ hands were tied as Ma’s situation was not life-threatening at the time.

Then, at 8.13pm on Thursday, Ma leapt from a fifth-floor window of the ward, killing herself and her foetus. She landed on the windshield of a truck in the hospital’s parking lot. Police have ruled that it was a suicide.

Weibo

Ma’s death was caused by numerous fractures throughout her body, severe cranial damage, hemorrhagic shock, and a stillbirth.

On Sept 8, an investigation panel made up of local health and public security officials decided that the hospital had been “negligent” in its care of the patient. While investigators did not fault the hospital’s medical procedures, it did charge the hospital with being unprepared for an emergency.

Earlier this week, Li Ruiqin, the obstetrician in charge of treating the pregnant woman was also suspended from his job while investigations are ongoing.

However, investigators have yet to make a decision as to the direct cause of the woman’s suicide, a major topic of conversation among Chinese netizens.

After the hospital’s account went viral on Tuesday, Ma’s husband came forward to offer his own side of the tragedy, claiming that he had twice given permission for a C-section, but that doctors had said that the birth would happen soon naturally and that a caesarean was not actually needed.

However, a hospital spokesperson said that the husband’s account did not agree with the facts, claiming that the man had never once given permission for the operation. As evidence, the spokesperson said that the hospital had the husband sign a form declaring that he understood the situation and possible consequences of not having a C-section as doctors had recommended.

In addition, the spokesperson said that hospital officials had checked surveillance footage which shows the woman kneeling on the floor, desperately pleading for her family to give their consent. On Wednesday, the hospital released that footage, which is silent, online.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkEzU2_M7hA

In response to the footage, the woman’s family has said that Ma was not kneeling to plead with them, but because of the intense pain that she felt, claiming once again that they had given their permission for the surgery.

Also on Wednesday, the hospital’s head gave two reasons for why Ma’s family had not wanted a C-section performed. First, that the family believed that doctors love to do surgery because then they can charge higher prices and take a percentage. Second, that following a caesarean, a second pregnancy becomes more “complicated”. The official added that Ma’s family’s believed that childbirth would always be painful for a woman with Ma’s mother-in-law urging her to “persevere”.

Meanwhile, Ma’s family has dismissed speculation that they had refused to give permission for a caesarean because they were “too cheap”, noting that they had six cave dwellings, a common kind of housing in northern Shaanxi province, and a car. The family lives in poverty-stricken Suide county.

Ma’s husband has also questioned how hospital workers could have let a heavily pregnant jump out the window, implying that there were sinister motives at play in his wife’s death. The hospital said that there were five pregnant women in the labour room when Ma jumped out the window of a nearby operating room. All the medical staff were busy with other patients at the time, though one nurse did attempt to grab Ma at the last second but was unable to hold on.

On Thursday, the hospital released footage online of Ma falling to the ground. Extended footage shows that it took 21 minutes for any paramedics to appear on the scene to try to help the woman, something that the family has again criticised the hospital for, arguing that her life could have been saved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2PvVFqHfF8