Litigation-driven surgery

Another cost of the litigation system not measured by the Tillinghast Towers Perrin study: pregnant women across the country are being required to undergo unnecessary C-sections so the doctors can avoid John-Edwards-style demagoguery in the event of pregnancy complications. C-sections now comprise 27.6% of pregnancies, and the cerebral palsy rate hasn’t declined at all.

Doctors and hospitals say they fear lawsuits if they allow a patient to attempt a vaginal birth after a C-section — called a VBAC — and something goes awry.

“We think the risk is more of a legal risk than a medical risk,” acknowledges Bob Wentz, CEO of California’s Oroville Hospital, which banned VBACs two years ago.

Thomas Frank asks what’s the matter with Kansas: it might be that a woman wanting to avoid a C-section has to travel 280 miles to find a hospital that will allow a VBAC. (Rita Rubin, “Battle lines drawn over C-sections”, USA Today, Aug. 23).

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