People often have a question about what they can refuse, when it comes to pregnancy. I’m not really sure why they even question it, except perhaps just because they’re so used to doing what they’re told to do without questioning anything. This post is inspired by a question somebody put into a search engine and came across my blog. The short answer is, yes, you can refuse anything you want! This is still a free country, right? Until you become a ward of the state, or are given a court order for something, you can refuse any medical procedure. Whether it would be wise, beneficial, or risky to do so is another question entirely.
In thinking on this question, I remembered a column a woman wrote about her experience when placed on bed-rest during pregnancy. Much of the column was about how mind-numbingly boring it was, and how difficult it was to lie in bed day after day, week after week. She did some research and found that bed-rest has been prescribed for generations for all types of pregnancy ailments, but very little research has actually been done on whether or not it is even beneficial. Apparently, her doctor told her that there was no guarantee bed-rest would help, but he recommended it anyway. She could have refused. Why didn’t she? Because a person in a white coat suggested it. She says that she was “placed on bed-rest,” even though the doctor could say he merely suggested it. It’s true he didn’t enforce it, but that is what happens when the medical professionals are given that amount of authority in our own minds — a suggestion becomes a command.
Henci Goer wrote in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, in a discussion on why VBAC hasn’t become routine (p. 163),
Reluctant doctors like to believe that hey haven’t much influence over their patients, but that is clearly not the case. Several studies have found that when doctors genuinely encouraged women to have VBACs , most of them did, and when they said nothing or acted neutral, most women didn’t. Finally, when obstetricians discouraged VBAC in women who wanted to try it, none of them did.
So, can you refuse things? Yes. Anything short of a court order. This goes for vaginal exams, ultrasounds, electronic fetal monitoring, IVs, hep-locks, enemas, restrictions on food and water, restrictions from moving, etc. Hospitals have policies set in place partially by their insurance companies to protect them from malpractice claims. You may have to fight, and it may not be pretty, but you as a patient have rights. You may not like to deal with the hospital staff who disagree with your choices — I’ve heard some down-right nasty comments from offended and rude nurses. But it’s your call. Technically, anyway.