Do adults have the right to refuse medical treatment? (& what about pregnant adults?)

Should people have the right to decline medical treatment and surgical procedures?

What about pregnant women? Do they have any right at all to decline medications or procedures like cesarean sections? If the answer is “no, pregnant women do not have that right,” then that seems to be holding the science of medicine in much higher regard than is proper. Medicine and doctors are not infallible predictors of what can happen to a person(s) medically, let alone infallible practitioners of surgery, etc.

I’m asking this with cases of court-ordered c-sections (or homicide convictions following stillbirth) in mind. Scary … what are your thoughts on this?

All competent patients have the right to refuse treatments and procedures by law, and yes, they should have this right. When a patient is no longer compentent or otherwise not alert/oriented, and they have a living will with a durable power of attorney, those wishes can still be carried out according to the patient’s wishes.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any procedures that are forced on a pregnant woman. But I’m sure you are thinking of a particular case and/or circumstance. Do you care to share it?

Can you elaborate? Are you referring to a recent case where the court ordered a C-section? What were the circumstances?

Yes! I can’t fathom a society where we are not allowed to decline medical treatment.

I’m with the previous poster, I can’t imagine a time where a pregnant woman would be forced to accept treatment. I’m pregnant now and have not used a topical antibiotic, and have told my doctor that I will decline a c-section unless there is SOLID reason to believe that the baby is in immediate danger. Often c-sections are given the moment that blood pressure rises, and there are other, non-invasive, non-surgical ways, to decrease both baby and mom’s blood pressure

I’ve never heard of this, is there a specific time you’re thinking of?

Here are a few links:

Woman who refused C-section sentenced to 18 months
cbc.ca/world/story/2004/04/29/csect040429.html

Crying murder when C-section refused: Disturbing implications of a Utah prosecution
cnn.com/2004/LAW/03/19/colb.csection/index.html

Newborn taken from mother who refused C-section
network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/legalpost/archive/2009/07/20/newborn-taken-from-mother-who-refused-c-section.aspx

(on a tangent to this, addicts who become pregnant):
South Carolina Supreme Court Reverses 20-Year Homicide Conviction of Regina McKnight
drugpolicy.org/news/pressroom/pressrelease/pr051208.cfm

Yeah, that’s a crazy example. But this wasn’t just a case of a women refusing to have a C-section. Though I think they were too harsh and out of line, the article also says:

Rowland, whose drug use was the basis for the charges of two counts of child endangerment, was also ordered into a drug treatment program.

Not enough information is provided on this one. But the courts CAN take a baby into protective custody if the mother is mentally unstable. Is there a follow up article?

This was drug-related too. This wasn’t just a matter of convicting a woman because she didn’t have a recommended-c-section, there was more to it.

Though I think all the cases are extreme. Do you have any examples that don’t involve drug abuse?

Should female addicts who become pregnant be treated more harshly by the law than other addicts?

Here’s another article:
Court delivers controversy (court order for woman to have C Section)
Times Leader ^ | 1/16/2004 | DAVID WEISS
WILKES-BARRE - A judge late Wednesday afternoon gave a local hospital permission to force a woman to deliver a baby via Caesarean section against her will.
freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1059276/posts

Of course.

What about pregnant women? Do they have any right at all to decline medications or procedures like cesarean sections?

I think it depends on several things, such as the health of the baby and the best course of action taking both mother and child into consideration.

I think they should be treated like any other addict and go to jail. I also support taking custody of their children if they are high while theyr’e supposed to be taking care of them. The children deserve to be raised by responsible adults who will see to their care and welfare.

I don’t know what to tell you about that hon, that’s a disturbing article in my opinion as well. The family should take the hospital to court. The patient has the right to be involved in their treatment, and the hospital didn’t give just cause (in other words, what medical reasons did they have to try and force the woman to get a C-section?) and obvsiously they were wrong, because the woman delivered a healthy baby vaginally.

At least the woman was able to get out of there and go to another hospital. And at least they warned her that if she returned to General, she would be subjected to a c-section against her consent. That made it an easy decision for her, didn’t it? :slight_smile:

Legally, adults (barring any question of mental issues) have the right to refuse any medical treatment. They do not have the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment on behalf of their children, usually. Court rulings are mixed here.

Catholics, however, as far as I know, are morally bound to pursue life-saving medical treatment, unless they are terminally ill and treatment is classified as “extraordinary” (chemo on stage IV cancer, etc). The imperative extends to their children, born and unborn, too.

As for forcing pregnant women to have C-sections . . . ethically, I don’t believe we should be forced, but scientifically, an elective C-section is an entire magnitude of probability safer than a vaginal delivery. My thesis director spent 5 years researching it.:shrug: And the medico-legal climate is such that most doctors don’t want to risk it if there’s any indication of a problem.

Yes, that right is quintessential.

What about pregnant women? Do they have any right at all to decline medications or procedures like cesarean sections? If the answer is “no, pregnant women do not have that right,” then that seems to be holding the science of medicine in much higher regard than is proper. Medicine and doctors are not infallible predictors of what can happen to a person(s) medically, let alone infallible practitioners of surgery, etc.

I’m asking this with cases of court-ordered c-sections (or homicide convictions following stillbirth) in mind. Scary … what are your thoughts on this?

I don’t think you should be able to charge a woman with homicide after a stillbirth, that is absurd.

Do you have any links to support the claims that elective c-sections are safter than vaginal deliveries? I’d be interested in reading them if you do have them…

Morally bound to pursue treatment? With all due respect, that just doesn’t sound right … medical procedures, surgery, anesthesia, all have risks … even if you’re assuming you’re at a very good hospital with very good doctors. Even medications carry risks (though usually to a lesser extent than surgeries.)

Also complicating this is the fact that not everyone has health insurance or can afford expensive treatments. Is someone acting immorally if they don’t deplete their life savings on a risky surgery, or a risky cesarean section? Is a doctor acting immorally if they don’t provide any and all treatments pro bono? (Certainly, with this logic, if people are morally bound to get treated, *someone *must be morally bound to provide it.)

I agree, it is absurd, and it has happened in a case involving an addict who got pregnant (though the ruling was reversed several years later):

From stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/536/regina_mcknight_south_carolina_supreme_court_pregnancy_drugs :
McKnight was arrested in 1999, several months after she experienced a stillbirth at Conway Hospital. She was convicted of homicide by child abuse in 2001 after a jury bought scientifically unsupported arguments that her cocaine use caused the stillbirth. Although McKnight had no prior conviction, and even prosecutors agreed she had no intention of harming the fetus, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison with no chance of parole.

(I hope I never miscarry or suffer a stillbirth. Who knows whether several years down the road I could be convicted of fetal child abuse on the ground of not having an ideal diet or too much/too little exercise during pregnancy.)

I disagree with drug use being treated as a violent crime deserving of jail time … but that’s another topic…:shrug:

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