Rowan, C.
November 1998
Nursing Ethics;Nov98, Vol. 5 Issue 6, p542
Academic Journal
The recent case of Ms S in the UK has clarified a controversial aspect of the care of a mother and her unborn child, particularly in relation to the right to refuse treatment, even though this may involve risks to her and to her child. It also raises issues about the role of the midwife in such circumstances. Ms S was a pregnant woman suffering from pre-eclampsia, diagnosed by the family doctor at 36 weeks. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983, as a means of forcing her to have a caesarean section. Mrs Hogg, the high court judge who authorized the operation, did not ask whether Ms S was mentally competent to refuse treatment, and the patient was not represented. Three judges subsequently ruled that her admission to hospital in 1996, her transfer and her detention on the obstetric ward were unlawful, as was the operation, even though it had been sanctioned by a high court judge. This case makes it very clear that court-ordered caesarean sections are not legally or morally acceptable when a woman is competent to make her own decisions.


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