What is informed consent?
Let’s start by breaking this down. There are 2 important components to informed consent:
- To be informed, the benefits and risks of any proposed medical decision must be fully explained to you and understood by you; AND,
- To be freely granted, consent needs to be genuine and not from a place of feeling pressured.
In practice, one or both of these components are not routinely sought by all medical practitioners.
Have you heard, either directly or through the story of another, the phrases “We will X” or “It is our policy to X”?
At my first appointment with my obstetrician, I was told “you have gestational diabetes so you will have a pre-term induction as it is our policy”. The risks were not explained, and I was not asked, just told, what would happen.
Have you felt like you couldn’t say no to your practitioner?
I initially felt like I couldn’t disagree with the proposed induction because it was never phrased as a question, I didn’t come from a medical background and I was a first-time mum without experience.
So why does informed consent matter?
You have the right to make informed decisions for yourself and your baby.
If you are in a position where you do not understand a proposed intervention, are not fully aware of the risks present and/or feel uncomfortable proceeding, you have the right to ask your medical practitioners for more information and/or to refuse that intervention.
It can be hard to say no when the question isn’t asked; when instead you are told “X is hospital policy.” However, policy is not the same as law. You are not legally obliged to follow hospital policies. Your practitioners, however, must obtain your informed consent.
So what should you do if you are faced with a situation like I was?
- Get informed with the BRAIN approach
Ask your practitioners to explain the:
Then check in with your Intuition (what is your gut telling you?)
Then ask what would happen if you choose to do Nothing.
If you have time to prepare beforehand, research, read, listen to podcasts & talk to other professionals and people with lived experience to learn more.
- Consider all the information and decide what course of action you want to take.
If you decide against the induction, that decision is completely within your rights and you do not need to justify it.
If you decide that the induction is the best course of action for you and your baby- great! You can still prepare for a positive and empowering birth!!
- Informed consent is not blindly agreeing to your practitioner’s plan. It is not given reluctantly, but confidently;
- You have the right to informed consent and you are not an inconvenience for enforcing that right by asking your practitioners questions; and,
- “I do not consent” is a full sentence.
This blog is written by Bianca Orsini who is both a Lawyer and a Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner in New South Wales, Winmalee. CLICK HERE for more details.
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