Friday, August 27, 2010

Court ordered medical treatment for pregnant woman in the US

Informed consent and right of refusal are accepted legal concepts. The woman has the right to make informed decisions, including consent or refusal of any aspect of her care. The courts have consistently affirmed that the autonomy of the individual prevails, even when a patient refuses to consent to life-saving treatment.

Autonomy; Even when his or her own life depends on receiving medical treatment an adult of sound mind is entitled to refuse it. This reflects the autonomy of individuals and the right to self you will read from Judge Butler-Sloss in the St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust case where a woman was forced by a court order to have a caesarean section against her will...... You could liken this to the current issues surrounding women making a choice to have a ‘Homebirth’..... and doctors applying pressure and creating a ‘fear’ culture to ensure that women choose hospital as opposed to homebirth.....

Judge Butler-Sloss in St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S (1999) “...while pregnancy increases the personal responsibilities of a woman it does not diminish her entitlement to decide whether or not to undergo medical treatment. Although human and protected by the law in a number of different ways..., an unborn child is not a separate person from its mother. Its need for medial assistance does not prevail over her rights. She is entitled not to be forced to submit to an invasion of her body against her will, whether her own life or that of her unborn child depends on it. Her right is not reduced or diminished merely because her decision to exercise it may appear morally repugnant.,....”.

Now in the US where the fetus has arguably had more rights than its mother in some states, which in my opinion is outrageous the State of Florida has recently ruled that a woman who refused medical treatment was ordered to comply with her doctor’s orders. The woman a mother of two who was experiencing complications during her pregnancy was ordered to hospital, made to receive medical treatment and have a caesarean delivery.

“The trial court ruled that the woman's refusal of medical treatment placed her pregnancy at high-risk and created a "substantial and unacceptable" risk to her fetus. The trial court said the state's interests in protecting the fetus superseded the woman's privacy interests, and she was ordered to comply with her doctor's orders. The woman submitted to hospitalization, medical treatment and a caesarean delivery, although the fetus was delivered stillborn.”

The case went to appeal and the decision was overturned......

“In its ruling, the appeals court said the state's interest in the life of the fetus becomes compelling only when the fetus reaches viability, as outlined in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. The court added that there was no indication of viability when the trial court ordered medical treatment and that even if viability were shown, the trial court applied the wrong legal test. The "test to overcome a woman's right to refuse medical intervention in her pregnancy is whether the state's compelling interest is sufficient to override the pregnant woman's constitutional right to the control of her person, including her right to refuse medical treatment," the court said in its ruling. It added that the state also must show that its method of pursuing the compelling state interest is narrowly tailored to protect the woman's rights”.

However for this woman her rights have been totally obliterated..... mind you this case now becomes another precedent and hopefully some other woman does not have to go through the same ordeal. We have to remember that women have the right to self determination; because they are pregnant they do not lose that right.

We in Australia have to be mindful that this does not happen here, that women’s right to self determination is not eroded such as this.

“The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the woman, said in a statement that the ruling is "an important decision for the right of women to make their own medical choices." Diana Kasdan, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said that women "do not relinquish their right to determine their own medical care when they become pregnant."


St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S [1999] Fam, 26’ [1998] 3 All ER 673

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