Childbirth is not an Emergency: Informed Consent in Labor and Delivery

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IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics


Most agree that informed consent must be obtained for medical procedures. Yet, empirical studies and anecdotal accounts show that women's right to informed consent and to refusal of treatment are routinely undermined or ignored during childbirth. The primary reasons currently accepted for exempting a procedure from the informed consent requirement are life-threatening or emergency circumstances and protecting the life of a minor or incompetent person. We will show that these do not apply in low-risk childbirth, and, thus, that obtaining informed consent throughout the normal course of labor and delivery is morally required.