The case of Samantha Burton v. Florida, No. ID09-1958 is a perfect example of how to get on the Six O’clock News.   

Burton was a 26 y.o. mother of two who was pregnant with her third child at 25 weeks and had less than desirable habits. She was a smoker, had two toddlers and was at risk for premature labor.

Burton was under the professional care of Jana M. Bures-Forsthoefel, M.D., a board certified ob-gyn physician with over 27 years of experience. She completed her residency training at Emory University which is one of the best in the country.  However, there was an obvious disconnect of professional judgment when Bures-Forsthoefel and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital obtained a court order to have Burton confined to the hospital involuntarily against her will. Burton was allegedly informed she’d have to remain in the hospital for three months and refused. But the Circuit Court of Leon County forced her to stay in the hospital and three days later, Burton delivered a dead baby by a cesarean section.  So, what was the point?

Let’s rewind the tape, and then hit replay so we can see what SHOULD have happened.

   The patient is at risk for preterm labor at 25-weeks gestation so obtain a high-risk consultation from the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists who also practice at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. They are the specialists, let them manage the patient

    If the patient refused treatment, contact risk management, have the patient sign informed refusal of treatment consent, list every possible complication that she could encounter, including the possibility of death, then DOCUMENT everything

  When she goes home, give her a list of explicit instructions with emergency phone numbers to call

No hospital or physician is exempt from getting a patient who’s a royal pain in the neck.  There will always one who will not follow medical advice. However, the days of paternalism are over. Burton was within her right to refuse the hospital admission but would have also been responsible for whatever consequences occurred. Confining her against her only exacerbated the problem by increasing her adrenaline and elevating her stress.

“Pride goeth before a fall”. Physicians don’t walk on water. When arrogance takes precedence over common sense, count on triggering a disaster.