Friday 20 January 2017

More pregnant women are objecting to being over-ruled by their doctors

Published 03/11/2016 | 02:30

The outcome of the High Court case, brought by the HSE to force a woman to have a caesarean section, is of keen interest to other mothers who also felt their voices were over-ruled by doctors (Stock picture)
The outcome of the High Court case, brought by the HSE to force a woman to have a caesarean section, is of keen interest to other mothers who also felt their voices were over-ruled by doctors (Stock picture)

The maternity ward can sometimes be a battleground for pregnant women who complain of being bullied into having interventions such as vacuum delivery or caesarean sections.

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This is not unique to Ireland and the fight-back is part of an international campaign highlighted by the Freedom for Birth movement, which aims to allow women get more control over how they have their babies.

It means the outcome of the High Court case, brought by the HSE to force a woman to have a caesarean section, is of keen interest to other mothers who also felt their voices were over-ruled by doctors.

The woman already had given birth to her previous three children by this surgical method and her doctors argued the risks for both mother and baby were too high to grant her request for a natural birth.

Inevitably, Article 40.3.3, which protects the right to life of the unborn, was cited. But rather than getting into another hand-wringing session and 'Repeal the Eighth' debate, it is worth noting that the judge ruled in her favour.

He evaluated the risks and said the court's view was that its right to intervene in a parent's decision in relation to her unborn child could not be any greater than its right to rule on born children.

The case is particularly interesting because it came to court. And these power struggles normally never get that far. They end up with a woman being warned about legal action and agreeing to the procedure, said Krysia Lynch, chair of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland (AIMS) yesterday.

"Pregnant women are routinely subjected to treatments and procedures within Irish maternity services that they are unable to refuse. Our support service organisations are full of cases where people report coercion and extreme pressure to agree to procedures which they may feel are harmful to themselves and their baby," she said.

She said the HSE's consent policy for pregnant women is informed by Article 40.3.3.

The reality is that many women are happy to hand over control to the expertise of the doctor.

This woman, thankfully, had a healthy baby by caesarean section, which she consented to.

As for doctors, they point out they are practising in a high-risk and highly litigious climate with many pressures, including understaffing.

But it can lead sometimes to a "them and us" divide between doctors and patients.

Irish Independent

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