Many are the days that parents, particularly mothers it seems, would love to have bed rest, a sanctioned excuse to not leave bed. I vividly recall my second pregnancy. Twins. In 1986-87. The things my OB/GYN did not tell me at first were that he was going to disable me at 26 weeks, that he was going to recommend that I be on bed rest from 26 weeks on to, hopefully, lengthen the time the twins were in utero. This was fine and dandy. The fact that the 26 week mark hit two weeks after I returned from a two-week vacation caused my employer some anxiety but the paperwork was filled out and I was a disabled person who was hobbling, not walking, around the house.
Who wouldn’t like to be disabled, so paid though not full pay, for eight to 14 weeks while the pregnancy continued? The question should be phrased, “Can a mother of an almost two-year old actually comply with bed rest?”
Days were not spent in bed. Days were spent in the recliner or on the sofa. The first day I was on disability, the almost two-year old, yes #1, locked himself in the bathroom. This was the start of my dislike of locks on bathroom doors – still don’t have one to this day and #1 is 25. I tried talking him through unlocking the door. The visual was probably comical – a 26 week pregnant woman, pregnant with twins so I looked overdue already, laying on the hallway floor, yelling under the bathroom door. When that failed, I got the stepladder out. I put it up against the house by the bathroom window and started up it. Thankfully, it was late September or early October and upstate NY was experiencing Indian Summer. If not, this would have been a disaster. Also, thankfully, a neighbor came and climbed in the window for me, unlocking the door.
These are the things that happen while on bed rest. I was not trying to disobey my OB/GYN. As a matter of fact, the twins were delivered at 38.5 weeks despite my shoveling for every snow storm from Christmas until the end of January.
Did I need a court to tell me I should do what the doctor ordered? No! I trusted my doctor but I also let him know that there was no such thing as bed rest with a toddler. Did my doctor think that my voicing my concern about being able to fulfill the bed rest requirement was cause for seeking a court order for me to do so? No! He explained the benefits. He also explained that raising my feet, whether in bed or a chair, would help. He also explained that the floor crawling to look under the bathroom door and the ladder climbing were definite no-nos.
So, as Lisa Belkin questions in her Motherlode blog on the New York Times, “Is Refusing Bed Rest a Crime?” Evidently, this is just what Samantha Burton did. Ms. Burton was put on bed rest by her doctor. As I did, Ms. Burton informed her doctor that she had toddlers – more than one! The doctor, from all I can find out, did not suggest that this should be a disability case – which would have prevented Burton from worrying about loss of her job. To force the issue, the doctor went to court. He got a court order that forced Burton to remain in bed in a Tallahassee hospital. Burton was not totally ignoring the doctor and noted she was planning on getting a second opinion.
My problem here is the court stepped into the relationship. First, if a doctor went to court every time any patient ignored the advice given during an office or hospital visit, the courts would be more overfilled than they now are. Patients are not bound to agree with and take heed of all advice given them. I am not saying anyone should ignore their doctor’s advice. I am just saying it is not a binding contract.
Second, this court intervention steps over the line of protecting a child. Whether you believe in fetus being a human from conception or you believe life starts at some further point in time, the court should not be involved in what a pregnant woman does to lengthen her pregnancy. In most cases, the health of the mother should come first, not the health of the unborn child. Now, before you jump all over me, I am not endorsing ignoring the health of an unborn child. I am just saying that the mother’s health should be primary.
Do courts get to determine if the overweight man gets to go to the Burger King drive-thru daily? No. So why would a court look at this particular issue?
The lower court based its decision on the fact that medical intervention is justified in “extraordinary” circumstances. The A.C.L.U. responded that the circumstances Burton found herself in were very ordinary. “It is hard to imagine anything more commonplace than the inability of a mother of two to remain on continuous bed rest,” the brief says, “or the well-documented difficulty in quitting smoking,” which Burton was also ordered to do. (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/is-refusing-bed-rest-a-crime/)
I happen to agree with the ACLU. There is nothing more ordinary than the inability of a mother of toddlers – remember my story and I only had ONE toddler – to maintain bed rest.
So what do you think? Are you ready for the courts to get in between you and your doctor? Do you think that saying you are going to get a second opinion is enough of a response? Where are you in this conundrum?