Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Good Cause – Protecting Every Woman’s Right to Informed Consent

In recent weeks, I have been busy – preparing to return to work, and figuring out how to move forward in a way that recognizes the needs of my family and my own personal needs. I have a personal need to know exactly what happened with respect to my daughter’s birth. I have a personal need for accountability for what happened. I have a personal need to gain some confidence that the same thing will not continue to happen to other women. My family needs me to meet my personal needs in a way that does not put at risk our financial and emotional well-being.

This has posed a tremendous problem – on one hand, the only way to get answers and accountability for what happened AND to ensure that the same thing does not continue to happen is to litigate. On the other hand, litigation is tremendously expensive and risky. There are many, very good, reasons why very few women ever sue as a result of their birth experiences in Canada – and now, I can say I am familiar with all of them. The problem is that because women do not, or rather cannot – assert their rights, those same rights are at risk of being disregarded.

I do not believe that I am alone in my experience. Far from it. Nor do I believe that anything will ever really change, unless the incentive structure in maternity care is changed. I believe women are entitled to informed consent and that they should be reasonably entitled to make choices in childbirth. They should be able to choose to pursue a vaginal delivery or a caesarean delivery. They should be able to choose to have an epidural or to forego pain relief. They should be able to have a discussion regarding the risks and benefits of their choices and to expect reasonable access to care to facilitate their choices.

This is not about natural or normal childbirth versus medicalized childbirth – this is about informed consent, timely access to care and minimizing the very negative consequences that can result when a woman is deprived of informed consent and timely access to care.

At this moment – I am hopeful, because in recent weeks an amazing group of women have established what could be capable of transforming maternity care in Canada.

I am overjoyed at the launch of the Birth Trauma Canada Maternity Legal Action Fund – and I look forward to the difference it will make.

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