The Lie You are Told About Informed Consent

Updated: May 31, 2019

Informed consent is an important part of medical treatment and ethics. We hear a lot of stories about women not being given options or explanations about the procedures they are going through in birth. But, what does real informed consent look like?

What Does the AMA Say About Informed Consent?

In episode 15 on our podcast, Julie talks about what the AMA guidelines are for true informed consent. The Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 2.1.1 is about informed consent. We encourage you to read the link mentioned, here is a snippet of what they say:

"The process of informed consent occurs when communication between a patient and physician results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. In seeking a patient’s informed consent (or the consent of the patient’s surrogate if the patient lacks decision-making capacity or declines to participate in making decisions), physicians should:

  • (a) Assess the patient’s ability to understand relevant medical information and the implications of treatment alternatives and to make an independent, voluntary decision.

  • (b) Present relevant information accurately and sensitively, in keeping with the patient’s preferences for receiving medical information. The physician should include information about the diagnosis (when known), the nature and purpose of recommended interventions. and the burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all options, including forgoing treatment."

What is informed consent?

Informed consent is a full explanation of what is being offered, including a list of the risks and benefits and being given the time and option to think about it and even decline. In labor there are many interventions that may come into play. An Intervention is anything done to your body during your labor process and even before labor begins. Knowing what these interventions are before birth is very beneficial. Even if you have an understanding of what these options are they should ALWAYS be explained when they are being presented as an option. It is important to know that everyone has the right to informed consent.

Sometimes in labor options are given and sound a lot less like options and more like demands. There are also things that are commonly just automatically done after delivery that mothers are never even aware of. It’s easy to agree to things when a medical professional says it’s the best option or not even notice that something is happening when you’re in labor. It is key that a woman understands that she has rights and not be scared to step up and say "What are you putting in my IV?" (looking at you, Pictocin!) DON’T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP!

If you’re delivering at a hospital, and sometimes even a birth center. you should be given consent forms. Don’t be scared to ask for time to read it. It is daunting when you’re given forms with tiny words and they are 2+ pages long. It is okay to take the time to read through them and see what you do and or don’t want.

What if it's an Emergency?

Care professionals must give you all the information. All of the Pros and Cons. After those have been given a mother has the right to refuse or agree. But what if its an emergency and the mother or baby are in serious danger? Doctors can actually move forward with care without getting an informed consent. This is another reason why having the information in your back pocket ahead of time is important. Knowing the risks and benefits of common interventions that can come up in labor prior to labor starting is important!

Refusal of Treatment

If you don’t want what is being offered, you have the right to say no. PERIOD! You have the right to leave or even change providers, even in the middle of labor. Doing so may result in you having to sign an AMA form. Also, you can change your mind and withdraw your original consent after you have agreed except if it was truly medically necessary. You may also change providers at ANY time if you so choose. Knowing your providers views and the policies that he or she must follow while making sure they know your desires before birth will give you a good idea if you have chosen the best provider for you and your birth.

Remember it is your body and your baby. You are in control and have the right to say yes or no. don’t be afraid to ask for more information or to ask for more time to decide on what options are being given in a non life threatening situation.

(This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice or council).

In episode 15 of our podcast, Rachel talk about her struggles with a lack of informed consent for her Cesarean and then goes on to have TWO successful VBAC's.

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