During his campaign for the Alabama Legislature last year, now-state Sen. Larry Stutts, a Sheffield Republican and OB-GYN, vowed to get the government out of the middle of the patient-physician relationship. He made no mention of the fact that what he really had in mind was putting insurance companies back in the middle of that relationship.
Stutts, who until a few days ago was considered a rising-star in the state Republican party, made national news because of the furor caused by what might go down in history as the most ill-advised bill any lawmaker could possibly sponsor.
Did he really think no one would notice that the law he wanted to get rid of was enacted because of the death of one of his patients?
By the end of last week, this former up-and-comer, whose bill would once again allow insurance companies to decide when a mother and her newborn would have to leave the hospital, had been labeled a pariah. Alabama political reporter Bill Britt wrote this about him: “Stutts is arrogant and careless and now we know he is evil.”
In 1998, Rose Church, a 36-year-old nurse who was one of Stutts’ patients, died of a heart attack soon after giving birth to a baby girl. An autopsy revealed that she had developed severe bleeding and that a part of the placenta had been left in her womb.
Rose was discharged just 36 hours after she gave birth. Gene Church believes that had his wife not been sent home so soon, at the insistence of their insurer, she might still be alive.
With his baby daughter in his arms, Gene spent many hours in Montgomery trying to persuade legislators that insurers should not be allowed to make medical decisions. He argued that they should be required to pay for at least a 48-hour stay in the hospital following a normal delivery and a 96-hour stay following a Cesarean section or complicated delivery. His efforts paid off. The Alabama Legislature in 1999 unanimously approved what came to be called “Rose’s Law.”