Today I had the most extraordinary conversation.
The building I work in hires a company to come around and take out the trash, vacuum, and dust. Apparently, one of the shifts is after regular business hours (around 6 or so), but one comes through around 8:30 or 9AM. A few months ago they switched up who was assigned to my floor. Now it's a fellow about 30 years old. From stray comments he made, I learned he was a Christian (I assume he is Protestant), and we talk a little bit about that every now and then. He is a devoted family man, and has a little girl and a little boy whom he loves. I know he is supporting the family, so I figured that he and his wife had chosen not to have more children for financial reasons - of course I didn't inquire; it's not really my business.
Anyway, today he was looking at the framed copy of St. Thomas More's "lawyers' prayer" that hangs on my wall. (It's a lovely prayer.) I told him it had been a gift when I graduated from law school, and he was surprised to learn I was a lawyer. (My door and that of everyone in the hallway pretty much says so, but I'm sure he never had any reason to pay attention!) I'm going to guess that he doesn't know a lot of lawyers, because he immediately brought up a legal question that has evidently been weighing on his mind. He told me that with her last delivery, his wife had a C-section, and the doctors put "all her internal organs back in the wrong places." I have no medical training, of course, but that sounds faintly odd to me - I think most of the internal organs in that area are free-floating. But he probably meant something specific that I failed to guess.
He said the hospital had told his wife she "couldn't get a lawyer" because she had signed a waiver of liability. Well, that's not true. People sue for medical malpractice all the time, and all those doctors had waivers signed before. Besides, you don't take legal advice from your opponent! I suggested that he google "medical malpractice lawyer" and go to someone who would offer a free consultation (since this is not an area I work in), and pointed out that the statute of limitations may have run (it has been a number of years).
Then I asked - what I thought might be more helpful - whether she has consulted with a doctor who might be able to repair the damage that was done. It might even be covered by insurance? He said it was too late. After the botched delivery, she had multiple ectopic pregnancies. In addressing those, they removed both her fallopian tubes. She can never have a child naturally, and it's killing her. She feels like less of a woman, she wanted a huge family (which he wanted too), she's basically lost her faith, she's incredibly angry, and she takes a lot of it out on him. He has told her that God must have a reason, and he wishes he could fix her up, but they can always adopt. She's not ready to consider adoption; she's not ready to let go of the dream of a big biological family. Wow...sound familiar?
I told him that I could see how she would feel that way and I know other people in the same situation. (I didn't say, "Including me" - but we may have that conversation another day.) I also said that in time she would probably come around on her faith and might change her mind about adoption, but that sometimes healing could take years. And I told him I would pray for him. And if any of you feel so moved, and you would like to, too, I would appreciate it...I feel like I was probably in the right place to hear that story for a reason. (And not because I'm a Christian. Not because I'm infertile. Because I'm an attorney?)
I was tempted to suggest a lot of things - have her call me; refer her to a chapter of Resolve; send her to some support fora on the internet - but I wasn't sure what was right to do, so I kept my mouth shut on that score for the time being. Maybe I can find a website or two to suggest, something that I find valuable myself, and recommend it in that way. Heaven knows that, if nothing else, I've found blogging helps with all the rage that is more than I can fairly direct at my husband, but not too much for you ladies, bless your hearts.
And while I try not to assume too many of the facts with prospective lawsuits - doctors are demonized by lawyers far more than they should be - I'm pretty angry about what happened in this woman's C-section. If she had two healthy babies and then several ectopic pregnancies, somebody did something really wrong. She almost died, and then they took her fertility for life. And she's 30. And they're not an affluent family, and not savvy about their legal rights, and I wouldn't be surprised if that played into it. That's just wrong.