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Deficit around ‘informed consent’, finds Irish maternity survey

The survey was of nearly 3,000 women who had given birth in Ireland in the past five years. It found that while 67 per cent agreed that consent had been sought during labour and birth, 52 per cent did not receive information to assist their decisions as regards potential implications of having/not having tests, procedures and treatments.

The quantitative statistics suggested that informed consent and refusal remain “an issue of concern”, said AIMS Ireland spokesperson Ms Sinéad Redmond.

Moreover, many women reported that consent was either implied as the procedure was being carried out –for example “we are just going to break your waters now” – or that while they consented, they felt they had no choice.

The survey also found that consent and informed consent/refusal were higher for procedures, tests and treatments in pregnancy and following the birth of the baby, than during the labour and birth.

Ms Redmond remarked: “The Irish National Consent Policy directly questions a pregnant woman’s right to refuse treatment. This has a serious implication on a woman’s right to make informed decisions outside of clinical recommendation in Ireland. Many of the current routine practices in Irish obstetric-led units do not meet evidence-based recommendations yet as they are practised across the board; women who choose to opt-out are not supported in many instances. We saw this in the Hamilton v HSE case. The drop in rates of consent and informed consent/refusal during the time of labour and birth suggests that this policy is very much reflected in practice within Irish maternity units.”

Overall consent statistics including data per obstetric units and midwife-led care options will be released this week.

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