By BARBARA WALLACE
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – While she was in labor, under sedation and on her way to a C-section, Kaiser staff coerced a woman into signing a consent form for a tubal ligation, she and her fiancé allege in a civil rights complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
In the complaint, Michelle Harris Anderson and Brett Harris Anderson accuse Kaiser of abusing its power in violation of their civil rights. The couple also alleges that a Kaiser social worker misrepresented that she was “mandated” to report Ms. Harris Anderson’s positive drug test to Child Protective Services, even though the baby’s test was negative and the couple had medical marijuana recommendations.
The Harris Andersons were visiting relatives when Ms. Harris Anderson went into labor and a cousin drove her to the local Kaiser hospital, the complaint says. She informed staff that she was having contractions 14 days before her scheduled Caesarean section.
“Within minutes the defendants confirmed that Ms. Harris Anderson was in fact in labor, and administered Ms. Harris Anderson two tablets of medication to ‘help with the pain,'” and then began asking her about her birth history, which included three previous Caesareans and four vaginal births, the complaint says.
Next, Kaiser staff allegedly asked her “if she would consider having a tubal ligation,” which she told them she had considered and ruled out for religious reasons, according to the complaint.
The staff allegedly told her she should reconsider, saying, “if you have any more babies, it’ll kill you,” and that she had had “so many C-sections that future pregnancies would place too much pressure on [her] uterus and this would cause [her] uterus to burst and [she] and the baby could die from the complications,” according to the complaint.
The complaint does not say whether these staff members were doctors, nurses or other health care professionals.
“Defendants eventually convinced Ms. Harris Anderson to sign a release of liability/authorization for the tubal ligation,” the complaint says.
However, “Ms. Harris Anderson signed the consent form literally minutes before being rolled into the delivery room. Defendants did all of the above while having full knowledge that Ms. Harris Anderson was in the midst of labor and under the influence and control of heavy medications and anesthetics administered by the defendants.
“Defendants knew or should have known that such medication would incapacitate Ms. Harris Anderson, negating her will and rendering her to a state of consciousness entirely open and susceptible to suggestion and coercion.”
The complaint adds that, the next day, a Kaiser social worker informed the couple that Ms. Harris Anderson’s urinalysis had tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in marijuana, and that “California State Law and Hospital policy mandate that she report to Child Protective Services all mothers who test positive for THC,” although the baby had tested negative. The complaint quotes the unnamed social worker as saying, “Hey if it were up to me, I would end it right here with our talk, but the law requires that we report all mothers who test positive for THC, regardless of whether it’s negative or not we have a mandated duty to report.”
According to the complaint, the Harris Andersons informed the social worker that they both had doctor’s recommendations for medical marijuana and that Ms. Harris Anderson had not used marijuana “for a matter of months.” They also contested the assertion that a mother’s positive THC test alone requires a report to Child Protective Services and told the social worker that doing so would violate California law protecting medical marijuana users from sanctions.
The complaint goes on to say that, at the couple’s request, the Kaiser social worker contacted their previous social worker in Sacramento County, who was named Ms. Jackson, then said, “I will consider my talk with Ms. Jackson as my having contacted CPS, so you guys are in the clear.”
The Harris Andersons accuse Kaiser of negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, battery, defamation, slander, libel, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of several civil rights laws including the United States Constitution and violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. They seek general, special and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and a jury trial. They are suing in pro per.