The frightening story is becoming all too familiar. As the expected arrival of their little one approaches, new parents are increasingly anxious and frustrated at they search frantically and yet in vain to find obstetricians to deliver their babies. During July and August alone over 825 women called Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to say they are unable to find doctors willing to deliver their babies. In Ontario, dissatisfaction among doctors has prompted about 60 per cent of the province’s 520 obstetricians to stop taking new patients. What is the problem? Why are doctors refusing to provide prenatal care and deliver babies?

Politics of blame

The answer to this question lay concealed for a long time in the political babble such as government cutbacks, ceiling caps, insurance fees and more. This issue has highlighted the politics of blame. The Ontario government was blamed for claw backs from billings, and failing subsidize insurance rates. Doctors are blamed for being “money hungry” and “too lazy to get up in the middle of the night” to deliver a child. And finally the insurance companies are being blamed for charging exorbitant rates for obstetricians. So who is to blame?

The Ontario government cannot afford to subsidize insurance fees in time of great fiscal restraint. Obstetricians are among the most sued physicians in medicine and are saddled with the highest insurance fees in the medical profession paying $23,000 a year on malpractice insurance. It is understandable that insurance companies would be concerned with doctors sued so frequently and the multi-millions dollar settlement that result.

The blame for this mess falls on another spirit from the Pandora’s box of abortion. With the “right” to abortion, which is assumed in Canada, has come the insanity of wrongdul births suits. First conceived in the US in the 70’s wrongful birth claims made press in Canada in 1986 when the British Columbia Supreme court ruled in favour of such a claim. The claim stemmed from a failed abortion attempt in 1978 wherein the claimant found herself still pregnant in her 17th week, months after her attempted abortion. She then decided to go ahead with the pregnancy resulting in the birth of twin girls. Although reportedly pleased with the twins she sued the doctor for $20,000 for “anxiety, inconvenience, physical suffering, loss of amenities and loss of enjoyment of life” resulting from the birth of the twins. She was awarded half that amount by the courts.

Since then many similar cases have come before the courts. Recently, in June of this year, two Ottawa doctors were found negligent for wrongful birth. The claimant gave birth to two sons now six and eight, who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A jury found Dr. Arlene Rosenbloom (doctor that delivered her first child) and Dr. Gary Viner (delivered her second child) guilty of negligence for not doing enough to inform the woman and her husband that her child would be born with Duchenne. According to the jury, Rosenbloom should have referred the woman for additional genetic counselling before the birth of the child. The jury also said that Viner was negligent for failing to have the first son tested for the disease. Without a clinical test, the symptoms of the disease do not show until a child is between four and six years old. The parents said that they had been properly informed of the risks, they would have either not had their second child or would have terminated both pregnancies.

Doctors are fed up. Many know the source and are finally beginning to expose the real culprit in the obstetrical nightmare. Quoted y the Canadian Press, Dr. Garry Krepart, of Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says, “If you sue because a doctor missed a broken arm, you get $5,000…But if you have a baby with cerebral palsy, whether in fact it was the result of an even at the delivery or whether it happened prior to the delivery, the settlements can be $7 million to $10 million.”

Unreasonable rates

Krepart reports that premiums are at unreasonable rates because of the expensive settlements awarded against doctors who work with pregnancies and because of an unusually  high rate of litigation.

With prenatal screening now widely encouraged, is it any wonder that obstetricians would refuse to take on a pregnant women? For failing to detect a hairlip or extra digit or  maybe even a second child they “deprive” the mother of an incentive to abort her child, which could result in a successful multi-million dollar law suit.

Seeing the potential and actual amount of litigation produced by this insanity along with the huge settlements more characteristics of US courts, is it any wonder that insurance companies are charging obstetricians higher rates?

Can we afford to subsidize doctors insurance fees to pay for wrongful birth suits? How long will we tolerate abortion and its accompanying horrors? Is abortion propelling the medical profession in this province in an unwanted direction?