Dr. Jen Gunter
Dr. Jennifer Gunter is a nationally and internationally renowned obstetrician/gynecologist.
“I have a 20-year-old with what I can only describe as a poorly repaired heart defect and, uh, suboptimal follow-up,” the cardiologist’s voice was rushed.
“That’s no good,” I said.
“Yeah, well, it gets worse. She had baby two years ago. Went into heart failure around 36 weeks. I’ve got the records. I have no idea how she made it home.” And then he added, “She had a c-section, but no one tied her goddamn tubes.”
“That happens,” was all I could say.
Actually, failing to do a tubal for a young woman with a very serious medical condition happens a lot. Patient refusal, Medicaid issues, or an OB dissuaded by her young age and the hope that advances in medicine might make it safe for her to be pregnant sometime in the next ten years. However, it was also possible that this young woman was so critically ill during her c-section that the doctors were just desperate to close her belly and get her off the table as soon as possible. Sometimes you just don’t have the five minutes.
“She came in short of breath. Eight weeks the radiologist says.” He added.
“So, uh, we have a problem…” I started, but he interrupted.
“Yeah, the pregnancy needs to be over. Today. Before she goes into heart failure,” he pressed.
I was fully aware of the medical urgency. That the amount of extra fluid the body accumulates in the early 2nd trimester can easily cause a damaged heart to decompensate. She’d already proven her heart wasn’t up to the challenge of the third trimester.
“I have to tell you something,” I said. I’m sure I closed my eyes, because even though I had nothing to do with it, I hated myself for what I was about to say. “There’s a new law. Maybe you don’t know about it? When the hospital’s budget was submitted this year to the state there was an additional clause. No abortions in this facility unless it’s life or death. Doesn’t matter if we can get insurance to pay or even if everyone is willing to waive their fees. The hospital is owned by the state.”
The Dean and the Chief of OB said they objected vigorously, but I don’t remember it being more than a minor blip in the news at the time.
“But it is a matter of life and death.” he said. “It’s not if it’s when. Her ejection fraction sucks. Her heart is crapping out already. Oh, and she had postpartum cardiomyopathy last time.” He was yelling by this point.
No wonder he was amazed that she survived her first pregnancy. Postpartum cardiomyopathy, devastating failure of the heart after delivery, has a 50% mortality rate. Women with underlying heart disease are at increased risk of getting this condition and the lucky survivors are more likely to get it again should they chance another pregnancy.
“Look, I’m not the bad guy here. But unless you can tell me she’s going to die in the next 30 minutes, we can’t do anything. Legal was very explicit. The next step is for you to call the concerned politician who wrote the law, explain her medical condition, and then find out if she meets his criteria for life and death. Basically, you need his permission” I paused, knowing what was coming next.
“You are fucking kidding me. You are just fucking kidding me,” he shouted. Not at me. It was abject disbelief.
Her odds of dying in the pregnancy or postpartum were high, but her chance of dying that day or tomorrow were not. When the balance would tip was difficult to know. Of course, the closer she was to a politician’s definition of certain death, the more dangerous any intervention would be.
“You could also arrange to transfer her to a private hospital, but I’m guessing she somehow hasn’t qualified for Medicaid.” His silence was reply enough.
“How is this a law?” He asked.
“It’s not about medical care, that’s all I know. Anyway, get your thoughts in order. Here’s the number for the hospital lawyer. He’ll arrange a conference call between you and the politician and then he’ll contact me if you’ve made her case.”
By the end of the day I still hadn’t heard, so I went home and waited for the phone to ring.
January 28th, 2014
In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is going to call for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Then in their response ...
January 21st, 2014
My New Year's Day op-ed in the New York Times seems to have kickstarted a discussion about how to make Obamacare better. I hope you ...
December 18th, 2013
This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been ...
December 14th, 2013
[View the story "Michael Moore Tweets on Eve of Newtown Anniversay" on Storify]
November 9th, 2013
Click here for this week's full schedule for the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The day has arrived. For ...
September 10th, 2013
[View the story "John Kerry's Accidental Diplomacy" on Storify]
July 30th, 2013
Today Bradley Manning was convicted on 20 of 22 counts, including violating the Espionage Act, releasing classified information and disobeying orders. That's the bad news. ...
September 11th, 2010
OpenMike 9/11/10 Michael Moore's daily blog I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on ...
December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that ...
May 12th, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in ...
November 22nd, 2011
This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and ...
September 22nd, 2011
I encourage everyone I know to never travel to Georgia, never buy anything made in Georgia, to never do business in Georgia. I will ask ...
December 16th, 2010
Dear Swedish Government: Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your ...
November 2nd, 2010
This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That -- and where to go from ...