Capacity pregnancy and consent: Disability and the 8th amendment

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Maria NI Fhlatharta
20180426_141850It’s a fact that everyone should know before they vote in May – it really is the crux of the debate –Is that people who are pregnant in Ireland are not able to refuse treatment in Ireland.
Pregnancy is one of two criteria which negates someone’s decision making capacity in Ireland. The other is Disability. While these criteria may overlap – pregnant people become disabled, and disabled people become pregnant all time – they are the only two factors that remove your say over your own body.
They are the only reasons a doctor can treat you without your consent.
I hope this horrifies you, – the idea that any person can be subject to medical treatment without their consent – be it a mastectomy, a cesarean or any form of medical intervention.
This treatment is dehumanising and ignores a persons right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. It is a form of assault.
Pregnant people all over the country are sharing their stories now. Stories of being demeaned, coerced, and ignored during their pregnancy and birth. Something which is part of the course for many disabled people during medical treatment.  The silence around these issues can be crushing.
They join the voices of disabled people, who have faced this form of coercion and duress since  for decades.
Just last month a woman with disabilities was forced to undergo a mastectomy  without her consent.  No one represented her point of view in court.
What people with no experience of this this miss, is that it takes no court of law to enforce forced treatment. The law in itself hanging over is enough to allow medical staff to do what they want.
It’s the “don’t make us go to court to make this happen” factor. The idea that you could be dragged through a legal system, or a trial is enough duress for people to go with what their doctor says, even if they aren’t comfortable with it.
This makes medical care an adversarial rather than collaborative process, which in a word makes medical care bad.
Excellent care can only happen with consent. Our medical care should be a partnership based on openness, trust and good communication. We need to be supported in our decisions – not forced into ones we are uncomfortable with – regardless of pregnancy or disability.
Our fight will continue far beyond the referendum this May.  We need comprehensive reform of psychiatric systems, capacity and decision making. We need our Government to enact the legislation we have, ratify the optional protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and remove the reservations (exceptions) they have placed on the protection against deprivation of liberty and legal capacity.  We also need them to remove the 8th amendment, so we can ALL finally have a say on our bodies, our treatments and our lives.

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