Are Legal Concerns Driving Sky-High Cesarean Rates?

Cesarean sections have reached an all-time high in the U.S., driven in part by legal pressure faced by doctors, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate of Cesarean births increased by over 50 percent from 1996 to 2007, with nearly one in three babies now delivered by the surgical method. Some experts are concerned with the rise because cesarean sections pose a health risk to both the mother and baby.

In a recent poll of members of the obstetrician’s college, cited by The New York Times, nearly 30 percent of respondents said they were performing more Cesareans because they feared lawsuits.

However, an obstetrician-gynecologist who blogs on Salon.com blames patients for the rising rates:

The C-section rate is skyrocketing primarily for non-medical reasons. While doctors blame the tort system as the proximate cause, the fundamental cause rests with patients, not lawyers or insurance companies. The fundamental cause is an inability to tolerate any risk to a newborn. In the current legal climate, there is no possible justification for not doing a C-section, regardless of how tiny the risk posed by vaginal delivery may be. Unless and until people stop penalizing doctors for not doing C-sections, they will continue to do them in ever increasing numbers.

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About the author

Jill Replogle is a researcher-reporter for FairWarning.

One comment to “Are Legal Concerns Driving Sky-High Cesarean Rates?”

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