Time To Testify provides a fascinating view into the private practice of obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr. Jay Atwell is on duty when the wife of a JAG officer goes into labor and ruptures her uterus.
The instant his scalpel enters the abdominal cavity, a sea of red floods over the edges of the table and splatters onto the green tiled floor. He worries about the baby, hopes it wouldn’t be brain damaged.
The first rays of dawn barely visible, he knows how little time separates light from darkness, how only minutes separated triumph from disaster, and how only seconds separate life from death.
His relationship with a navy nurse is more than comradery. He leaves the navy and searchs for a place to set up practice, checks out a Catholic hospital.
“Sister Agnes, your hospital’s reproductive policies are oppressive to women, offensive to my own beliefs, and incompatible with those of my profession. Do you get special absolution from the Vatican to distort the truth?”
In his struggle to upgrade Clarkesville´s obstetrical department he locks horns with hospital bureaucracy and demands that obstetrical nurses be trained to scrub-in for emergency cesareans in order to meet the required thirty–minute start-up time.
Vivian, his longtime patient, begs him to deliver her next baby by VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). He refuses to handle her pregnancy. Vivian ruptures her womb, loses her baby and her uterus.
Dr. Atwell blames the hospital. “I repeatedly warned this hospital´s administration that our department of obstetrics was a disaster waiting to happen and they did nothing to correct the problems. A disaster is exactly what happened.”
After Vivian is awarded thousands of dollars she names Dr. Atwell as a defendant in a malpractice suit. Eight years later, he stands trial. A surprise witness testifies for Vivian, but her testimony backfires. “Dr. Atwell was the obstetrician on duty the night I was born . . . the night my mother’s uterus ruptured. He performed an emergency caesarean . . . pulled me out . . . saved my life.”
Ellen Jones, a retired navy nurse and Dr. Atwell’s old flame, attends the trial. The jury deliberates, Vivian’s attorney becomes ill.
The verdict is in.
Setting and Location
A labor and delivery ward in Northern Maryland, Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. Dr. Atwell’s private office, Doctors’ surgical lounge, Clarkesville Memorial Hospital. The Gulf Coast of Florida. A courtroom.
Dr. Jay Atwell opens doors into the real world of obstetrics. He is frustrated, but relentless and compassionate in his fight for women’s rights.
Claire Foley, wife of a U.S. Navy JAG Officer
Commander Ellen Jones, navy nurse
Quincy Sadler, obstetrician
Bill VanBuren, An Errol Flynn–type general surgeon
Vivian Andrews, longtime patient
Lauren La Fonte, chief nurse
Reggie Lehman, hospital administrator
Derek Brooks, orderly
Georgette Cohen, newspaper reporter
Lawyers and physicians
Malpractice/the legal profession
VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)
Operating room—a ruptured uterus
Cesarean section for breech
Vaginal delivery/hydrocephalic Breech
A deadly courtroom scene
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