Recently, in my province of New Brunswick, Canada, a nurse in the city of Moncton was recently "fired over suspicions that she gave [pitocin] to patients without their consent." Six friends sent me the CTV article the morning it was published. I guess I'm supposed to be outraged. And I am. It's horrifying. Without their consent!!!! The thing is, I've been outraged about this for twenty years.
Because the “consent” medical personnel require to administer pitocin “legitimately” is almost always extracted from women through coercion: either under extreme duress, or manipulated out of them with lies about its necessity and safety. I hear stories every single day about women who are given pit against their will. (By the way, these women were given the drug PITOCIN, not Oxytocin. Pitocin is the *synthetic* form of oxytocin, and the two are completely different, with distinct effects in the body. Doctors and nurses cannot “administer oxytocin”. It’s not possible. Lying about what the substance actually is, is central to the process of coercion, by the way. In fact, medical professionals destroy the body's natural production of oxytocin, but I digress.)
New Brunswick hospitals are places where women and babies are literally tortured every single day.
So I’m somewhat confused as to why this particular outrage is newsworthy all of a sudden?
Now hang on. Obviously, if these Monctonian women actually had pitocin slipped into their IVs without any prior knowledge whatsoever, this is truly sickening. I stand in solidarity with these women, and my heart genuinely goes out to them. I hope they take legal action, and I hope they win. Their situation is also specifically dangerous over and above the usual risks of Pitocin. As Gloria Lemay wrote, on facebook,
"Pitocin is normally administered in carefully titrated parts per million. The dose is started very low, because some babies will go into distress from even a very tiny amount. Every beat of the heart is monitored once the intravenous drip is started and a close accounting of the amounts is charted because things can change very suddenly and the infusion pump has to be turned doff immediately if the baby shows signs of distress. A nurse injecting Pitocin into a bag on a Ringer's lactate is completely out of control and the fetus is not being closely watched. That's what is so "over the top" alarming about this. Yes, all inductions are dangerous, but this is way out there, if it's true."
But the reality is that 30-40% of ALL women who give birth in Canadian hospitals are given pitocin prior to their birth process beginning, and a much higher percentage of women (80% or more? I'm not totally sure about the stats on "labour augmentation") are subjected to pitocin at some point during their birth process (often called “augmentation”—no big deal, just a little pit with your ice cubes dear)? And almost every single woman who gives birth in Canadian hospitals receives a jab of pit postpartum--which is similarly problematic. All of this is, in my view, a staggering example of shocking mismanagement and widespread, endemic abuse.
The risks of pitocin for induction and augmentation almost always outweigh its benefits. I would argue that there are no benefits to the normalization of the use of pitocin and there is ample scientific research to support this. It’s fascinating that the CTV article, uniquely, does discusses the dangers of pitocin (without elaborating on the reasoning here, as Gloria does, above) when those risks are framed as nonexistent in the context of its “legitimate” use on the vast majority of women who give birth in the hospital across North America (and the world). But hey—as long as there is a prescription, and as long as that prescription was preceded by “consent”—whatever the hell “consent” could possibly mean from a women in the throes of trying to surrender to a human being passing through her vagina, the most vulnerable and intimate experience of her life.In the article, a nurse has been fired because a doctor “suspects” that women were given [pitocin] without a prescription. Wait a second. Pitocin during industrial birth *requires* a prescription? I honestly had no idea. During the hospital births I have witnessed, I have seen women jabbed in the thigh with pit at a moment’s notice after giving birth, without any sign of excessive bleeding whatsoever. I have seen pit locked into an IV within seconds after a woman finally submits to her obstetrician’s wheedling. And of course, I have heard the testimony of thousands of women over the years who were overtly given pitocin without their consent, and in many cases, against their explicit consent. Are these mystical prescriptions printed off as women enter through the hospital doors? That's a serious question.
So yes, the nurse who surreptitiously, criminally, without prior discussion or mention (if this is indeed what occurred), gave women pitocin without their knowledge is totally deranged, and has committed major nefarious medical malpractice--especially considering the additional dangers of the improperly managed administration of the drug.
Then again, if that nurse had wanted all her patients to have pitocin, she could just as easily have made up a story about how pitocin was going to save their babies, like the other nurses and doctors do. Then just print off the prescription, and ta dah! Three minutes later she can go to town dishing out the pit with impunity. That’s how the system works. Silly woman. Or is she a scapegoat?
The CTV article does address a horrifying injustice. But it also, subtly, represents and even celebrates major institutional gaslighting. The whole system is broken. Almost every woman who walks into the hospital to give birth is abused. Let’s wake up.