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City Bar Files Amicus Brief in Support of Plaintiff in Dray v. Staten Island University Hospital

An amicus brief filed by the New York City Bar Association in Dray v. Staten Island University Hospital, a matter on appeal, has been accepted by the Appellate Division (Second Department). The case involves a woman who was forced, pursuant to an internal hospital policy not disclosed to patients, to undergo a surgical (cesarean) delivery against her will.

Rinat Dray, the Plaintiff Appellant, sued Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) in 2014 after she was forced to undergo a cesarean delivery against her will. In its defense, the hospital claimed that it had followed its “Managing Maternal Refusals” policy, which provides detailed guidelines for how to override a mentally competent patient’s medical decisions when she declines procedures doctors believe to be necessary for her baby’s or her own health. The brief states, “Most notably, it authorizes physicians to use ‘the means necessary’ to compel a woman to undergo cesarean surgery if, in their medical opinion, the probable risks to the fetus outweigh the possible risks to the woman.” This hospital-created policy authorizes hospital staff to subject patients to an unwanted surgical procedure, with its attendant risks of harm and even death, according to the brief. Unconsented care of patients who have expressed their wishes is not authorized under New York law. In Ms. Dray’s case, the brief observes, “….the Hospital failed to disclose a policy that not only went to the heart of Ms. Dray’s ability to receive the health care she sought, but further tainted the initial consent she gave to receive care at the Hospital.”

Filed by the New York City Bar Association’s Sex & Law Committee and Bioethical Issues Committee, the amicus brief argues that New York law and public policy require adequate access to information so that patients can make informed healthcare decisions, and that hospitals have a duty to disclose policies that fundamentally impact the provision of care. In particular, patient care policies that may implicate patients’ constitutional and statutory rights must be disclosed so that patients can make informed decisions about where to receive care. The right to timely notice and information sufficient to make informed medical decisions is a bedrock principle undergirding multiple New York laws (including the Patients’ Bill of Rights Law and Public Health Law) and is supported by New York case law. Moreover, state and local policy demonstrate a special commitment to ensuring autonomy and access to information in the context of pregnancy.

The brief concludes that “the hospital’s failure to disclose its written policy to pressure or force unwilling women to have caesarean surgeries when it deemed the procedure to be advisable or necessary to promote the well-being of the fetus – even at the expense of the woman’s health – deprived Ms. Dray of the opportunity to avoid treatment at a facility where her treatment goals would not be respected.” Further, the hospital’s failure to disclose its “Managing Maternal Refusals” policy violated Ms. Dray’s right to sufficient information to make an informed decision about where to receive health care services, depriving her of the opportunity to avoid treatment at a facility unsuitable for her treatment goals that performed an unconsented medical procedure on her as a matter of policy–in violation of her rights under New York Law and the U.S. Constitution.

The complete text of the amicus brief can be found here: