Amber Marlowe, Angela Carter, and Laura Pemberton all have something in common. All three were told they had no rights to informed consent when it came to birthing their children. One woman died, one woman avoided an unnecessary c-section by fleeing the hospital, and another was handcuffed at her home and dragged into the hospital while in labor and forced to undergo a c-section.
Sounds like they were living in some kind of country with no rights… right? Nope, all three took place right here in the United States which sparked a big debate on informed consent laws, and mothers rights while in labor.
While some physician organizations across the country are opposed to these kind of forced procedures, they are still taking place.
According to a 2004 article from MSNBC:
A 2002 survey by researchers at the University of Chicago found only 4 percent of directors of maternal-fetal medicine fellowship programs believed pregnant women should be required to undergo potentially lifesaving treatment for the sake of their fetuses, down from 47 percent in 1987.
Dr. Michael Grodin, director of Medical Ethics at the Boston University School of Medicine, said doctors should seek court intervention when a mother refuses care only if the patient is mentally ill.
“Women have a right to refuse treatment. Women have a right to control their bodies. It is a dangerous slope. What’s next? If someone doesn’t seek prenatal care, what are we going to do, lock them up?”
Pregnant women have several legal rights to make choices in their own care!
Here is a sample of the Patient Bill of Rights (I highlighted the rights that stand out in maternity care)
- To safe, considerate and respectful care, provided in a manner consistent with your beliefs;
- To expect that all communications and records pertaining to your care will be treated as confidential to the extent permitted by law;
- To know the physician responsible for coordinating your care at the Clinical Center;
- To receive complete information about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis from the physician, in terms that are easily understood. If it is medically inadvisable to give such information to you, it will be given to a legally authorized representative;
- To receive information necessary for you to give informed consent prior to any procedure or treatment, including a description of the procedure or treatment, any potential risks or benefits, the probable duration of any incapacitation, and any alternatives. Exceptions will be made in the case of an emergency;
- To receive routine services when hospitalized at the Clinical Center in connection with your protocol. Complicating chronic conditions will be noted, reported to you, and treated as necessary without the assumption of long-term responsibility for their management;
- To know in advance what appointment times and physicians are available and where to go for continuity of care provided by the Clinical Center;
- To receive appropriate assessment of ,and treatment for, pain;
- To refuse to participate in research, to refuse treatment to the extent permitted by law, and to be informed of the medical consequences of these actions, including possible dismissal from the study and discharge from the Clinical Center. If discharge would jeopardize your health, you have the right to remain under Clinical Center care until discharge or transfer is medically advisable;
- To be transferred to another facility when your participation in the Clinical Center study is terminated;
- To expect that a medical summary from the Clinical Center will be sent to your referring physician;
- To designate additional physicians or organizations at any time to receive medical updates.
When it comes down to it, if you say no, or do not wish to undergo a certain procedure, you legally cannot be forced into it, which we are seeing in an increasing number today.
You have rights!.
photo: flickr.com/Ross Catrow