(Tuesday, 12 March 2013) This past weekend, as the nation celebrated International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, an Irish Maternity Hospital initiated an invasive procedure on a pregnant woman against her will. ‘Mother A’ was denied patient autonomy and the right to informed refusal when the drastic and unprecedented measure of an emergency High Court sitting was called in order to compel her to undergo a Caesarian section. The risk of uterine rupture was cited as one of the main reasons for the urgency in this case but this risk is widely reported as being 0.1% or 1/1000. This is what Dr. Michael Turner, Obstetrician at the c*e Hospital has called: “exaggerated, professional scaremongering…and it must stop”. (VBAC Conference, 2012)
State-sanctioned coercion of medical procedures on pregnant women or any other competent adult is not only unacceptable but it is also unlawful in other jurisdictions, such as the USA and the UK (Re AC  & Re S ). ‘Informed consent’ and ‘informed refusal’ abuses are common issues reported to AIMS Ireland by women.
Jene Kelly of AIMS Ireland states: “there is an overwhelming acceptance by the public and some maternity service providers in Ireland that a pregnant woman’s right to informed consent, or informed refusal, is not reliable and that women who exert their rights are selfish. It is this mentality that has allowed atrocities such as symphysiotomies, miscarriage misdiagnoses, unnecessary hysterectomies by Dr Neary and all the other reported assaults against women by our maternity system to continue to go unanswered in Ireland for so long. This is no country for pregnant women. ”
AIMS Ireland reports that women who are bullied into consenting do not fulfill the principles of informed consent and therefore are entitled to sue the doctors for assault. For example, a woman who was forced to have a caesarean section against her wishes in the UK sued the doctors (Ms S v St George’s NHS Hospital Trust, 1998) and was awarded £36,000 damages. It is time that Irish women did the same. Threatening women, bringing women to the high court, removing women’s rights and choices – these bullyboy tactics do not promote trust between women and their care providers. How can you trust a system that doesn’t acknowledge your rights? Women are choosing to leave the system as a result.
Annette is one of these women. She is lobbying the HSE for a homebirth following a previous Caesarean section. The HSE currently does not recognize informed choice for homebirth for women who fall outside strict exclusion criteria in site of a European Court of Human Rights ruling recognizing a woman’s right to decide how and where she births. Annette does not meet criteria following her previous Caesarean, despite having subsequent successful vaginal births. Annette asks: “Is it HSE policy to use the High Court as a method of intimidation and coercion, when a patient tries to exercise her right to informed decision making, as laid out by the European Court of Human Rights (Ternovsky v Hungary, Under Article Eight)? We are humans, with great intellect. We are capable of informed discussion and decisions regarding our pregnancies and births in the best interests of ourselves, our babies and our families. I feel anger, disappointment and bewilderment. Today as a woman and mother, I grieve.”
AIMS Ireland Press Contacts:
Jene Kelly 087 681 9095
Krysia Lynch 087 754 3751
Barbara Western 086 385 3344
AIMS Ireland is a consumer-led voluntary organisation that was formed in early 2007 by women following their own experiences in the Irish maternity system. Our mission is to highlight normal birth practices, which are supported by evidence-based research and international best practices, and campaign for recognition of maternal autonomy and issues surrounding informed choice and informed refusal for women in all aspects of the maternity services; from Caesarean section to homebirth. AIMSI campaigns on the grounds that birth choice is a basic human right as declared at the International Conference of Human Rights and Childbirth, “It is a fundamental human right for women to choose the circumstances in which they give birth, with whom and where, including a choice between hospital and home birth” and Article 8, European Court of Human Rights