Family of woman who died after C-section plans legal action against Woodhull Hospital

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Investigation underway after mother dies after giving birth
Kristin Thorne has more on the investigation.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The family of a New York City woman who died two months ago shortly after giving birth at Woodhull Hospital is taking legal action.

Christine Fields, 30, of Long Island City, died November 13 after undergoing a Cesarean section. The New York City Medical Examiner said she died of hemorrhaging from the procedure and ruled the manner of death as a "therapeutic complication."

Denene Witherspoon, Fields' mother, said Fields did not want to have a C-section, but when her son started to go into distress in utero, doctors rushed her into the procedure.

Fields had two previous children with no complications.

Witherspoon said she saw her daughter in the recovery room after she gave birth.

"She just looked drained," Witherspoon told Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne.

Witherspoon said she rubbed her daughter's feet, told her to get some rest and left the hospital. She said minutes later she received a phone call from Witherspoon's fiancée telling her something had happened to Fields and Witherspoon needed to return to the hospital.

Tanequa Witherspoon, Fields' sister, said it was chaotic at the hospital with nurses and doctors running in and out of hospital rooms.

"We're not knowing what is going on until the point where it was completely over and she was gone," she said.

Fields, who recently received her college degree in criminal justice, leaves behind her 2-month-old son, Anuel Perez, a 3-year old and a 5-year old.

"I'm angry, I'm hurt, I'm upset," Denene Witherspoon said.

The family has filed a notice of claim against Woodhull Hospital and the New York City Health and Hospital system seeking $41 million in damages saying they both were "careless and negligent in the medical care and treatment rendered to Christine Fields and Anuel Perez, while in utero."

The notice of claim said Fields suffered cuts to her blood vessels which caused internal bleeding.

Attorney Sanford Rubenstein is representing Fields and said her death is a reminder that women of color in New York City are more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.

"This should not be happening in this city," he said.

The New York City Health and Hospitals system would not comment on Fields' death citing medical privacy laws, but said in a statement to Eyewitness News: "NYC Health and Hospitals/Woodhull has revamped and enhanced its protocols across it's obstetrics and anesthesiology departments, and recently hired two new clinical leaders in these areas. The hospital is also strengthening the role of nurses in the management of maternal health patients. Across our health system we are using innovative interventions that we believe will address the disparities and race-based health care gaps that historically and disproportionally affect the diverse population of patients we proudly serve."

The New York State Department of Health said while they cannot comment on individual cases or this open investigation, the department has strong policies in place to keep parents and babies healthy, safe and protected.

Witherspoon has been protesting outside Woodhull Hospital every Saturday afternoon since her daughter died.


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