After giving birth four times via caesarean delivery, Lisa Epsteen wanted to have her fifth child vaginally. She found someone to help her through her high-risk pregnancy — a respected physician who heads the University of South Florida’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.
She thought he was on her side. That is until she opened an email from Jerry Yankowitz, M.D., her doctor, threatening to have police pick her up and drag her to the hospital for a surgical delivery.
Epsteen was more than a week past her due date. An ultrasound alarmed her doctors, but she wanted to schedule her surgery for Friday. That didn’t sit well with Yankowitz. So he wrote to her:
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 told the Tampa Bay Times that after receiving that email she panicked. “In a couple of hours there are going to be cops on my doorstep taking me away from home — in front of my children — to force me into having surgery,” she recalled thinking.
She contacted the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which contacted Yankowitz demanding he “stop immediately any further threats or actions against Ms. Epsteen.”
“Pregnant women are no different than anybody else in terms of their Constitutional and human rights,” staff attorney Farah Diaz-Tello said. “The threat he was making was both legally and ethically unjustifiable.”
After hearing from NAPW, Yankowitz backed down. A nurse later called Epsteen to say her surgery was scheduled for Friday (today) as she wished.
Although the medical mafia — sometimes aided by the court system — has often overstepped its bounds, Epsteen did not attribute nefarious motives to Yankowitz’s actions.
“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,” she added. “On the other hand, this is not the way to go about protecting my baby or me.”