Pregnant Woman Fights Court-Ordered Bed Rest

For three days, a pregnant Samantha Burton was confined to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital against her will, ordered by a Florida court to bed rest and any medical care necessary to sustain her troubled pregnancy.

Burton was in her 25th week of pregnancy in March 2009 when she began to go into premature labor and willingly went to the hospital on the advice of her doctor.

But when the 26-year-old resisted -- learning that she might have to stay months until her delivery, away from two toddlers at home -- hospital officials obtained a court order to force Burton to submit to anything to "preserve the life and health of [her] unborn child."

Burton miscarried three days later and was discharged, but now she is taking up the fight over her treatment with the help of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union. They want to strike down the court order that rendered her powerless to make her own medical decisions.

This week, before a three-judge panel in Tallahassee's First District Court of Appeal, Burton's lawyers argued that the Leon County Court order set a "dangerous" precedent.

Critics say the state's intervention could have dark ramifications for other pregnant women who could even be criminalized for drinking a glass of wine or eating unhealthy foods, driving too fast or even failing to take their prenatal vitamins.

"Women do not give up their right to determine the course of their own medical care when they become pregnant," said Diana Kasdan, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Faced with similar cases, courts throughout the country have made clear that pregnant women have a right to make decisions about their own health, including refusing medical care."

"We pursued this appeal for this reason, to set the record straight," she told ABCNews.com.

Lisa Raleigh of the Florida Attorney General's office, who argued that the state exercised due process when it intervened to save the life of Burton's unborn child, did not return calls from ABCNews.com.

Burton, described by her pro bono lawyer as a "quiet woman" who was shying away from publicity, is seeking no monetary damages and has said that she is appealing the court order to help other women.

Burton, who is married, was "actively taking part in prenatal care" when she began to have problems with her pregnancy, according to her lawyer David Abrams, who is also a trained nurse.

She willingly went into the hospital on the advice of her obstetrician, Dr. Jana Bures-Forsthoefel. But Burton argued with her doctor about the length of stay and also about her smoking.

Bures-Forsthoefel did not return calls from ABCNews.com.

Pregnant Woman Couldn't Quit Smoking

"She was having difficulty quitting smoking and wanted to go home to be with the children and not be alone in a hospital room for three months," said Abrams.

He said the state acted unconstitutionally and infringed in her rights to "privacy and liberty."

Burton was never offered a second opinion or any compromises, such as a nursing home or less restrictive facility, according to Abrams. At one point a friend who lived near the hospital had offered to take Burton in.

When Burton refused to stay, the hospital called the state, which appointed the hospital lawyer to prosecute the case and got an order from the Leon County Court.

Burton was appointed a lawyer "after the fact," said Abrams.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: A home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. is shown in this aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental.
Tributary Environmental/AP Photo
null
Danny Martindale/Getty Images
PHOTO: Woman who received lab-grown vagina says she now has normal life.
Metropolitan Autonomous University and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine