Sunday, November 18, 2007

Can women give informed consent to homebirth?

Certainly it is theoretically possible for women to give informed consent to homebirth, and a small proportion actually do give informed consent. However, most women do not.

An absolute requirement of informed consent is complete information about risks, benefits and alternatives. Any homebirth consent form that does not explicitly mention the fact that the existing scientific evidence shows that homebirth has an increased risk of neonatal death is inadequate. It is not enough to reference the few studies that CLAIM to show that homebirth is as safe as hospital birth, while avoiding mention of any that show the opposite.

It is absolutely imperative to explicitly describe the risks of refusing screening tests, the increased risk of neonatal death caused by postdates, the increased risk of potentially deadly infection from prolonged rupture of membranes, and all other risks.

What is particularly distressing about homebirth advocacy is that women are not trusted to make decisions. It is considered critical to keep accurate scientific information from women and to make up information more in keeping with the ideological agenda. It is considered important to "shield" women from comments that do not support the ideological agenda. It's as if homebirth advocates are consciously or subconsciously aware that most women would never choose homebirth if they knew the truth.

The "maternalism" of homebirth advocacy is astounding. Women must be led, coddled, supported, flattered and praised. They cannot be trusted to read and understand scientific information, to make informed choices and to stand by those choices. Why not?

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