Some people claim that women should not be free to plan a cesarean delivery because cesarean deliveries cost more than vaginal deliveries, and in a publicly run health system (like in Canada), that is unacceptable as it places an unneccessary strain on the system. As a result, the violation of patient autonomy and charter rights is "justified".
This claim needs to be deconstructed because such a violation should only happen when it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
I believe this claim can be clearly deconstructed using data from the the Canadian Institute for Health Information's Patient Cost Estimator
I note that all data is for the province of British Columbia.
For convenience, I will assume that all repeat c-sections are planned c-sections, even though many of them will include failed vaginal birth after cesarean attempts (which would be at a higher cost as they would be emergent procedures). The average cost of these in 2008/09 was $3,410. Also for convenience, I will assume that all other births were 'planned vaginal' births regardless of whether or not they resulted in an 'actual vaginal delivery'. I note that some primary c-sections would have been lower cost planned c-sections for bonefide medical reasons, however, the vast majority of them are likely emergent/urgent c-sections done as a result of complications that emerged during labour. Weighing these births by volume, the weighted average of planned vaginal delivery in BC in 2008/09 was: $2,938.45. I note that this is likely an underestimate of the cost of planned vaginal delivery.
So, according to this back-of-the-envelope calcuation, how much does the health system 'save' by denying a women the right to choose a cesarean delivery based on these rough estimations:
That's right ladies and gentlemen - violating a patient's autonomy in BC in 2008/09 saved the health system an estimated $471.55. Assuming that 2 percent of all 'planned vaginal deliveries' would have choosen a cesarean (approximately 721 women in 2008/09), the health system saved $340,091.44. That's less than 0.3% of the money spent on deliveries in the health system in 2008/09 and less than 0.0025% of the total $15 Billion health budget in 2008/09. In 2008/09, to allow all women in British Columbia who would have choosen cesarean delivery to do so would have cost less than the amount that was paid to Vancouver Island Health Authority's CEO in salary and benefits ($417,425) in 2007/08.
I note at my therapist's rate of $160 bucks per hour is less than 3 hours worth of therapy. I'm reasonably convinced that my birth experience will need more than 3 hours of therapy to deal with - so in my particular case, denying my right to choose how my child was born will likely cost the system MORE than if the pre-labour cesarean had been granted.
I also must note that this cost difference does not include the costs that are associated with correcting the impact of vaginal delivery on the pelvic floor, the cost of caring for permanently disabled children who were injured during their mothers' planned vaginal deliveries, or the cost of birth related litigation.
So to those who say that planned elective cesarean is not a valid birth choice on the basis of cost - I would say that they need to take a long, hard look at some real numbers. I would further hope that preservation of one's charter rights should be worth more than $471.55 - which is likely a gross overestimate of the actual cost difference between thes modes of delivery.