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When Courts Fail: Physicians’ Legal and Ethical Duty to Uphold Informed Consent

Chavkin, Wendy; Diaz-Tello, Farah

Informed consent is a fundamental precept of modern medical care and pertains in those situations when a patient rejects a physician’s recommended treatment. This article reports on the case of a pregnant woman in labor who refused the Caesarean section urged by her doctor. The physician involved a consultant and the hospital attorney, and they decided to perform the surgery against her explicit wishes. The arguments used to justify this unconsented intervention invoked fetal wellbeing. This article discusses the conflation of focus on the fetus, derived from anti-abortion argumentation, with the rights of the autonomous adult pregnant woman. This article explores the implications of such forced surgery for the status of pregnant women as competent adults, the ethical underpinnings of the physician-patient relationship, and the law.

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Columbia Medical Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
Population and Family Health
Mailman School of Public Health
Published Here
January 22, 2018
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