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Skol v. Pierce Update: Doctor Fined and Placed on Probation


Chicago Breaking News reported yesterday that Dr. Scott Pierce, who was accused of mistreating Catherine Skol in labor with her fifth child on March 1, 2008, was fined $500 and placed on one year’s probation by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

According to the article, Rush University Medical Center later disciplined Pierce and his clinical privileges and medical staff membership were suspended. In addition, Pierce “was ordered to complete classes on physician-patient communication and behavior, as well as continuing medical education courses. He must notify the agency of any complaint, dispute, arrest, civil action or formal or informal disciplinary action, and file periodic reports to the agency.”

Pierce resigned on February 18, 2009.

Skol’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner, was reported as saying Skol will proceed with her lawsuit.


Catherine Skol’s allegations against Scott Pierce in the Cook County civil lawsuit, Skol v. Pierce, are summarized as follows:

Pierce arrived at the Rush University Medical Center at 8:10 a.m. on March 1, 2008, and immediately asked Skol, “Did you call anyone before you came in?” When Skol told him that her regular doctor had not instructed her to call first, Pierce responded with words to the effect of, “By law someone has to cover for the doctor. And people need to plan. You should know better since this is your fifth child. You should have come in sooner at ten to fifteen minute contractions rather than eight minutes.” Pierce complained that he had to arrive in a matter of minutes but it had been over four hours since he was first called. His drive took approximately eighteen minutes.

Over the next two to two and a half hours, Pierce would not let the patient have an epidural or any other pain medication. He told Skol and her husband that the baby would be born in ten minutes, which he knew or should have known was false, given Skol’s degree of dilation. Even after the baby was not born in ten minutes, Pierce still didn’t let her have an epidural or any other pain medication, just letting her suffer all that time unnecessarily.

Pierce repositioned Skol in the stirrups so that her toes were turned in (pigeon toed) and her buttocks were no longer on the table. This positioning required Skol to support herself with her arms. Despite her repeated requests to be repositioned because her right leg was cramping, and she had two herniated disks in her back, Pierce refused and made her remain in this position until he left the room after the delivery.

Pierce would not answer any of the Skol’s questions and would interrupt her repeated saying “Shut up, close your mouth, and push.”

At one point during the delivery, Skol was in the middle of a very strong contraction when Pierce decided to perform a vaginal exam. Skol specifically stated, “No. Stop!” Pierce refused and performed a very rough vaginal exam causing Skol extreme pain.

Pierce proceeded to ask for a “hook” and break Skol’s water bag. Pierce told the other doctor present that the water bag broke spontaneously, without admitting that he artificially ruptured Skol’s membranes with a hook. Pierce again stated that the baby was going to be here in ten minutes.

Pierce told the Skol that she was probably going to hemorrhage and that the blood had better be ordered. At that time, the chances that the baby was going to be born in ten minutes were zero.

Skol was extremely frightened by the statements. Pierce specifically stated that both she and her unborn baby might die. Skol had experienced a stillbirth several years before which was very traumatic for her and her husband.

After the room was prepared for delivery, Pierce took a seat on a stool between Skol’s legs at her perineum and requested that the other doctor sit next to him.

Pierce then took a phone call from a resident on his cell phone. Pierce proceeded to talk at great length during his phone call about an abortion he was going to be performing that day. Pierce scolded the resident on the other end of the call for taking heart tones on a baby that the resident was about to abort. The conversation was overheard by everyone in the room, because Pierce spoke in a very loud voice.

Skol was shocked by Pierce’s statements and continued to feel fearful for her life and that of her unborn child.

Despite Skol’s request to see the fetal monitor so she could control her pushing, Pierce would not allow her to see it. When the nurse tried to turn the monitor so the Skol could see, Pierce yelled at her to stop. He said, “Do not help her.”

Pierce repeatedly said words to the effect of, “there is only one voice in this room and it is mine.” No one else was permitted to speak. When the Skol tried to ask questions she was again told to, “shut up, shut your mouth and push.”

Pierce, by keeping the Skol in the stirrups for at least 1½ hours, greatly increased her risk of deep vein thrombosis, in addition to greatly increasing her physical pain.

Despite Pierce’s representations that the Skol was dilated to eight centimeters at 8:15 a.m. when he left the room one hour after that, the other doctor checked Skol and said she was barely dilated to eight centimeters at that point.

Despite Skol’s statements to Pierce that her other children had been delivered when she was dilated to ten centimeters; he continued to insist she push, saying words to the effect of, “eight, nine, ten had nothing to do with it.”

Pierce continued with his cell phone calls, calling people “assholes” and telling someone to “kiss my ass.” He made comments such as “that stupid woman, she has no business being pregnant.”

Pierce inserted a catheter during one of Skol’s contractions, which was extremely painful.

Pierce threatened Skol with a cesarean section, stating, “this baby is coming out or it’s not” putting her in fear of either fetal distress or a cesarean. Pierce kept asking the nurse, “did you order enough blood? Because she is going to hemorrhage.” Skol found this terrifying.

Pierce caught the baby by her arm and leg almost dropping her, then held the baby up by one arm and leg for everyone to see.

Pierce proceeded to stitch Skol without adequate anesthesia and requested that Skol’s husband hold her down because she was squirming in pain. Not knowing what else to do, her husband held her down.

Skol repeatedly asked for pain medication during and after the delivery and the laceration repair. Pierce repeatedly denied the her any pain medication and was very rough when he cleaned Skol after the stitching, jabbing her with a sponge.

Pierce told the nurse that Skol deserved to feel pain because she had not called before coming in and that sometimes “pain is the best teacher.”


Hat tip: @lakeline

 Photo credit

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Reader Comments (38)

I read this story and I wonder if Skol and her husband had asserted themselves, as GE suggested, what would have happened then? With this extremely abusive physician would it have further aggravated him and pushed him to do something more drastic? I am well aware that there are many things that an OB cannot force you to do during the birth of your child, but I am also of the opinion that it some cases that leads to covering up their behavior and creating a "my word against theirs" scenario that doesn't always play in the mother's favor. This is all unfortunate, sad, and unnecessary. Why become a doctor in the first place?

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKM

I'd been wondering when we'd hear an update on this case. I can hardly believe what a lightweight slap on the wrist he got. Wow. And you know, it probably all plays into his sense of being persecuted.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

I am appalled. Just appalled.

And what's more appalling is that I can't even bring myself to say (let alone think) that this is an isolated case--that, surely, there can't be more OBs out there like this.

This man (and others like him) has no business being around pregnant and laboring women. In fact, he has no business being around *any* patients. Period.

As other commenters have stated, a fine and a one-year probation doesn't seem like justice at all. And in all honesty, I'm utterly unconvinced that a class on "physician-patient communication and behavior" will change his own behavior whatsoever.

If only justice could be meted out turning the tables on him next time he's in pain...

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Well, I'm glad that there was something official. Perhaps it's just a slap on the wrist, but it's better than nothing; and being on probation means that if there are any other complaints, they won't just be swept under the rug.

What the Skols' behavior in allowing this sort of thing to happen shows me is the power imbalance in hospitals, with doctors presumed to know what is right and to do it, even when it's obvious to everyone outside the situation that it is terribly, terribly wrong. It's easy to sit back and believe that we'd not let it happen to us, but it's easier said than done. Probably she was just thinking, "if I'm a good patient, it will be over sooner," or she was swept along in labor-land not necessarily totally in her logical, thinking portion of her brain; or just mentally "run over by a truck" with how he was acting -- dazed and confused. Yikes.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

this is horrendous. the fine and the probation is a joke. he should lose his license and should not ever be allowed to deliver babies. actually maybe he should have to be in stirrups and have everyone disrepect him and prod and poke him!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermavis gewant

I think it's sad that we have to say, "Well, at least it was something!" People pay traffic fines that are harsher than that!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKari

This is so disturbing! Because that Dr. felt inconvenienced, he treated everyone around him abhorrently - the mother, her husband, the nurses, and the baby. Someone so uncaring should not be in practice. What about the oath - "First do no harm"? I am so glad this family pressed charges. Their voice needs to be heard!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Whatever happened to DO NO HARM??? This man is psychiatrically flawed, at best. This article needs to be sent far, wide and deep into the birthing community, especially where this happened. No one should give him business, that is the "best teacher" in my opinion.

I am horrified beyond belief.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMisty Steffen, CNM

I am horrified, but also disgusted that he was ONLY fined $500. That's about two minute's pay for obstetric care! You shell out more than that for a reckless driving ticket in this state!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Sue him, to cause him some pain and give the family some small restitution. Shame him on the internet, so that mothers who wish to do research and inform themselves can find out about him. Teach mothers how to be informed consumers.

Leave the govt out of it. Govt ALWAYS does more harm than good. We can use our own power to make sure people like this are out of business. Kudzu.com, HealthGrades.com, ratemds.com, drscore.com, etc.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiberty
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