Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pregnant Woman = Doormat?

So, I've been reading a lot of articles and stories lately about women who have been treated badly during labor and birth.

Here are just a few:

Skol v. Pierce Update: Doctor Fined and Placed on Probation

New Jersey Cesarean Refusal Case: The "System" is Schizophrenic

Since when did pregnant women become doormats? No one, especially a woman in labor, deserves to be treated like this.

This all has me thinking.

A pregnant woman, like any other competent adult, has certain basic rights. She has the right (for any or no reason) to decline medical treatment. This has long been recognized by the common law in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. (from Childbirth and the law; By John A. Seymour)

It amazes me that in this country you can actually choose to have an abortion, yet you (obviously) can't choose to refuse a cesarean. And while I don't want to open a can of worms in regards to abortion, we need to sort out some facts.

An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus/embryo, resulting in or caused by its death. (from Wikipedia)

So, an abortion ends in the death of the fetus (or embryo as the case may be), and it is a deliberate act. And if we take into consideration that there are a few doctors in this country that still do LATE term abortions, we can factually say that some abortions are performed on viable fetuses. So, we are legally allowed to cause death deliberately to a potentially viable baby, but we are not allowed to refuse a cesarean (even when fetal distress is the reason given for it).

Abortion = Deliberate Death = OK
Cesarean Refusal = Possible Death = Not OK

Now, I am not advocating for women to refuse cesareans if their baby is in true distress. And I think that most women are smart enough and brave enough to admit that cesareans are a wonderful live-saving tool and a benefit when used judiciously. But to tell a woman that she must sacrifice her bodily integrity to potentially save the fetus's life seems out of line.

Lets talk a bit about fetal monitoring for a moment.

Results were the same in all four studies: more electronically monitored women ended up...with Cesarean deliveries. Cesarean section rates ranged between 63% and 314% higher for electronically monitored women than manually monitored women. There was no improvement in perinatal outcome for the babies delivered by Cesarean section. The principal "reasons" alleged for these surgical deliveries--fetal distress and cephalopelvic disproportion (disproportion of head to pelvis)--cannot be proved or disproved. The real reasons, according to these studies, are attending physicians' impatience and nervousness. (Brackbill et al. 1984:10)

Ok, so according to 4 studies, the diagnosis of fetal distress via electronic fetal monitors which led to an implied life-saving cesarean, showed NO better outcome.

Forgive me, I am failing to see why a pregnant woman's autonomy should be violated...