Alabama Doctor-Senator Was Just Kidding When He Filed Revenge Bill Against Dead Patient
Well that was satisfyingly fast. After news broke late last week that Alabama state Sen. Larry Stutts, an OB/GYN, was trying to repeal a 1999 law passed after a woman died under his care, Stutts turned around Tuesday and withdrew the bill, muttering that he'd have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling reporters.
A brief recap: back in 1998, Stutts discharged Rose Church from the hospital 36 hours after she gave birth; Church subsequently died of a heart attack following severe bleeding; an autopsy found that part of the placenta had remained in her womb, leading to the fatal complications. Stutts settled a lawsuit brought by Rose Church's husband, Gene Church, who then devoted himself to advocating for a state law requiring insurance companies to cover hospital stays up to 48 hours after a healthy birth, and 96 hours in cases of cesarean deliveries or births with complications. That measure, called "Rose's Law," passed unanimously in the Alabama House and Senate in 1999.
Then last fall, Dr. Stutts got himself elected (with an endorsement from Dr. Ben Carson, no less) to the state Senate, and last week he introduced a bill to repeal the 48-hour coverage requirement, claiming that he just wanted to get Big Government out of the doctor-patient relationship. Never mind that a longer hospital stay could well have saved Rose Church's life. The connection between Stutts and the death of Rose Church attracted intense media attention, and so, with deep regrets we're sure, Stutts withdrew the repeal bill on Tuesday.
Needless to say, Stutts is very sad that people mischaracterized his motives for dropping the mandate for insurance coverage for up to 48 hours of maternity care:
Stutts had said this is so women can leave earlier if they want to and the decision to leave would be decided between patient and doctor on a case-by-case basis.
The current law creates shared responsibility for the patient and doctor if the new mother wishes to be released early. This means the doctor must inform the woman of advantages and disadvantages of an early discharge.
Yes, this is indeed where we yell "Bullshit!" and point out that the current law doesn't shackle women to the wall and require them to stay in the hospital for 48 hours after giving birth; it merely requires insurance to pay for that long a stay if the woman wants.
Gene Church told WSFA-TV,
I'm incredibly excited about this and very pleased that Larry Stutts decided to do the right thing in this instance by removing the bill. I certainly don't know what ultimately motivated him to do the right thing, but I'm certainly glad he did in this instance [...] sometimes you have people who have their own personal agendas and we have responsibilities as citizens to step up and keep an eye on our elected officials and try to make certain that they do the right thing.
For his part, Doctor Senator Stutts released a statement explaining that the media got it all wrong, and that he would never ever ever in a million years ever do anything that might endanger a patient, and also he would just like to name all his children so you know he is a good person, you bet:
"A practicing OB-GYN for the last 25 years, I have dedicated my career to improving the health of women in Alabama. My wife, Jackie, and I have been married for 34 years. We have four adult children; three daughters, Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Sarah; and one son, Collins. Jackie and I have one grandson, and another grandchild expected in May. I would never support legislation that would be detrimental to the health of any woman or child.
"My sole intention with Senate Bill 289 was to re-center healthcare decisions between a patient and her doctor by limiting government mandates. Recent media attention has not conveyed this genuine intent.
"After careful consideration and feedback from my constituents, I realize this legislation isn't the best vehicle to achieve the original intent. Therefore, I am withdrawing SB289 and am comfortable with it not being considered in committee.
"Let me also say that neither the bill nor today's decision is related to any patient case I have had during my medical career, despite media insinuations to the contrary. I am proud of my 25 years serving my community and state as an OB-GYN, and I look forward to continue serving them both as a medical doctor and senator."
Translation: Dead woman? What dead woman? I have several children, did I mention that? Stop persecuting me. This has nothing to do with any dead patients of mine whose death might have led directly to the passage of the law I wanted to repeal. How dare you suggest such a thing! In fact, I'd pretty much forgotten how the law came to be passed in the wake of a woman's dying while I was her doctor. It just struck me as a particularly unfair government intrusion into the sacred relationship between a doctor, a patient, and the patient's insurance company. Also, if I'm very lucky, in four years no one will remember this when I'm up for reelection. Here, look at these pictures of my family.
Yr Wonkette has elected not to withdraw Dr. Sen. Stutts's nomination for Wonkette’s coveted Legislative Shitmuffin of the Year Award. He's earned it, and what with this Google alert we've set up, we wouldn't dream of letting him escape our future attention.
[WSFA TV via tip from Facebook commenter "Jay"]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.