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TAMPA (CBS Tampa) — A Florida doctor told a pregnant patient that he would call the cops on her if she didn’t have an emergency caesarean section because the baby was a week past his due date.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Dr. Jerry Yankowitz, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern Florida, sent the threatening email to 35-year-old Lisa Epsteen.
“I feel abandoned. There has to be a level of trust between provider and patient, and that has been betrayed,” Epsteen told the Times. “It’s circumstances like this that make women feel like they have no options but to birth their babies on their own — and put themselves in more dangerous circumstances — because they feel bullied.”
The email stated: “I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery. I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice.”
Epsteen reached out to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women after receiving the email. The group sent a letter to the hospital questioning their medical ethics.
“Any attempt to force her to undergo the surgery by means of arrest and detention in the hospital is without legal justification and in defiance of a clear medical consensus that such threats and actions undermine maternal, fetal, and child health,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director of NAPW, said in a statement on the group’s website.
Doctors did, though, believe the lives of Epsteen and her baby were in danger. Epsteen had developed gestational diabetes and an ultrasound Tuesday showed the baby in distress. That’s when doctors told her to immediately go to Tampa General Hospital and have a C-section.
She didn’t want to give birth that day because her husband was at work while she had the family’s only car and also she didn’t have anyone to watch her 2-year-old son.
“In Dr. Yankowitz’s defense, and all of the other physicians there, I don’t think they are trying to cover themselves. I think they really do have the best interests of my child and myself at heart,” Epsteen told the Times. “On the other hand, this is not the way to go about protecting my baby or me.”
Dr. Yankowitz did send an apology to Epsteen. She is planned to give birth to her fifth child Friday.