Letter: A woman's right to refuse obstetric surgery

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: I read with concern the article regarding Mrs S and her unborn child ('Baby died after woman refused surgery', 14 October). This situation is rare. Most women will consent to Caesarean section if advised by obstetric staff that it is necessary. I understand why the staff felt it necessary to seek legal advice but I am disturbed by the High Court's decision to override a woman's right to withhold consent.

The British Medical Association and the Medical Defence Union are both reported to have said that any new case would have to be tested in court. I should hope so. What concerns me most is that now there has been a ruling where a pregnant woman's right to refuse such treatment has been overridden, and others may follow. In February 1992, the Health Committee advocated more choice and control for women in the care they receive. While in this case I believe the woman made the wrong choice, control of her body was taken away from her.

In future, will this woman and other women be deterred from seeking midwifery and medical advice when they need it in case a similar thing happens? A woman's right to determine whether or not she undergoes any operation must be paramount. Medical advice should remain medical advice, however hard it is for professional staff to accept.

Yours faithfully,



14 October