Can I refuse…?

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.


2 Responses

  1. My doula partner and I were just discussing this very thing yesterday. We have grown discouraged in how slow our business has been and sit and pondered why women aren’t willing to make choices that might go against what their doctor recommends and how much influence the doctors truly have on their patients.
    I’m not one to just go along with something that the doctor may say to me, but I still find myself having a difficult time with declining something that might be recommended even if I am making an educated choice. Why?? I think it’s because it feels like I’m bucking authority and most of were raised not to question authority figures, they are doing what is best after all.

    It’s funny, lately your posts are about exact topics my doula partner and I have been discussing…must be on the same wave length! LOL

  2. I am in disagreement with my doctor about bed rest. I agree that is was necessary after the cercleage was put in (at 19 week U/S they saw my cervix had shortened to 11mm). I agree that it was likely due to my over active always on the go Type A super pushing it personality. I agree with the fact that I need to slow waaaaaay down, stop pushing myself for the burn or super woman feel. I agree with all that. I don’t agree with bed rest at home. I want to be working at my desk, in my office. I sit all day long. I need help though. I don’t know where to turn for this question. I submitted the paper work for FMLA. They actually have me down from 8/21/08-3-9-09. I WILL LOSE MY JOB. I dont know if I cn dispute those dates, or what. I have delayed in turning in the paper work to HR because dates are not right. I will have a C/S due to my last emergency C/s (baby was not progressing after 19 hours, 9.2 pounds-husband and I are tall), and they have me out for 8 weeks. My company pays for 4 weeks. (intention is to have us pay 2 weeks vacation for total 6 weeks. ) Doctors office wants me out 8. I dont agree. I dont agree with that. I dont agree with the bed rest at home. I need different numbers and wording on that FMLA form. I dont’ know who I can talk to or where I can go to get all my questions answered as far as my rights and FMLA paper work goes. Do you know?? Can you please email me and help me???? Please?!!

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