LA COUNTY: Health Officials To Investigate Caesarean Practice
"Los Angeles County health officials promised Tuesday to investigate a now-discontinued policy of forcing women to attempt to deliver babies vaginally at county hospitals," the Los Angeles Times reports. The move came in response to "a unanimous motion by the [county] Board of Supervisors demanding information on the issue." According to County Health Director Mark Finucane, officials will "also find out whether there are other areas in which budgetary policy is limiting individual medical decisions and frustrating recent reforms aimed at curbing instances of medical malpractice at public hospitals." Finucane said, "We are prepared to give you the history of obstetrical practice in this country. We are prepared to give a report on the different ways we are handling things in the department." The investigation will be conducted by a panel of physicians that includes the medical directors and obstetrical department chairs of all county hospitals.
From 1980 to 1995, county hospitals mandated that, as a way to save money, doctors attempt vaginal delivery with nearly all women at public medical facilities before performing caesarean sections. However, the policy was discontinued in 1995 because "it resulted in so many injuries and deaths." The county has paid $24 million since 1992 to settle "49 claims involving women or children who were killed or injured by failure or delay in performing caesarean sections." The number of caesareans was allowed to rise from 10% in 1989 to nearly 20% last year after the policy was discontinued (Bernstein, 1/28).