Would doctors and hospitals knowingly put mothers and babies at risk by performing unnecessary interventions?

July 1, 2011 Ashley 2 comments

operating roomThe scientific literature shows that many unnecessary procedures are performed during labor and delivery. I have a basic belief that if given the choice, most people will make the ethically responsible choice. Doctors and hospital administrators need to guard against the subconscious human failing that pushes decision making toward self-interest. Parents need to be aware that these may be factors in the decisions made for them during labor and delivery.

The French physician, anatomist and anthropologist, Paul Broca (1824–1880) set out to see if brain size differed by race. He took skulls and poured in seed hulls until the skull was full. He then measured the mass of the seed. Using this method, Broca’s data showed that the volume of a Caucasian skull is, on average, significantly larger than that of an African American’s. Luckily, someone thought to examine his methods and it turned out that Broca was subconsciously packing the Caucasian skulls with more force than that of the African American skulls.

How does this relate to hospitals and doctors? There is a basic conflict of interest in maternity care: Doctors and hospitals earn more money in less time when c-sections and other interventions are performed than by waiting for a mother to labor and deliver naturally. Doctors and hospital administrators may not consciously acknowledge this conflict of interest. They may not consciously realize that they create unsupported rationalizations for these practices. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and say most doctors and hospital administrators do not consciously put mothers and babies at risk unnecessarily.

Kelley Leblanc, DC
Project Manager, Atlanta Birth Center
Executive Director, Atlanta Health Alliance

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2 thoughts on “Would doctors and hospitals knowingly put mothers and babies at risk by performing unnecessary interventions?

  1. The real kicker here is that they don’t see it as putting mothers and babies at unnecessary risk. They consider interventions to be superior to natural childbirth and to be routine and safe. Doctors are taught to believe that the body is the enemy and it must be interfered with in order to bring about a state of health. Hopefully this mentality is changing.

    1. I agree Lea.

      It’s difficult to nail down what doctors are thinking. But one thing that’s surely missing: doctors aren’t following the recommendations of the American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics (ACOG). And they aren’t looking at the research, that clearly shows that many interventions (induction, epidurals, episitomies, c-sections) are over used. The research also shows that when interventions are used unnecessarily, they are likely to do more hard than good.

      Research can be found at: http://www.atlhealthalliance.com/research.html

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