Legal Rights Regarding Birth Care

October 16, 2019
The relationship between medical staff and patients in childbirth care entails some rights and obligations for both parties. It's also essential to know, and comply with, the laws that are currently in force.

There is a close link between medical staff and patients in childbirth care. The relationship before, during, and after childbirth is strengthened when we know the rights and obligations of each party. In this article, we’ll be talking about the legal rights regarding birth care.

We don’t usually expect the unexpected as far as birth is concerned when mothers are healthy. However, there are always risks in childbirth, and knowing how to act legally is a necessary tool.

In many countries, claims against obstetricians figure high on the list of lawsuits. This is an issue that’s of great concern due to the harsh consequences it can have.

Many doctors have decided to leave obstetrics in order to devote themselves exclusively to gynecology and avoid potential legal problems. Others continue their vocation trying to comply with all the areas of professional responsibility.

There are many legal rights regarding birth care and rights for mothers and their newborns. These can vary from country to country, but include the following:

Mothers’ rights in childbirth care

Privacy

Both physical and moral privacy are a specific right in the relationship between the medical professional and the patient. The obstetrician has access to all the mother’s information in their medical history and the law requires physical intrusion to be kept to an absolute minimum, along with total confidentiality of all information.

Legal Rights Regarding Birth Care

Right to information

The medical staff must orally communicate any action to be performed in childbirth care, and record it in the patient’s records. A lack of communication is usually one of the main reasons for lawsuits against doctors.

Laws require clear, easily understood information for the mother that includes: the reason for carrying out the actions, how they will do it, the risks involved, and the possible consequences.

Medical staff must also respect the mother’s right to not want to receive information too, and must duly record this. They must also regulate communication with third parties. It’s the obligation of the medical staff to respect the mother’s wishes on exactly what information they are permitted to share with the relatives.

The right to choose in childbirth care

The information that the doctor offers should allow mothers to choose between two or more clinical options. Codes of Ethics specify that every member of staff must respect the patient’s wishes. The mother will decide their preferences for position, monitoring, emotional support, and other factors.

The obstetrician cannot make moral judgments or impose their perspective. Women who don’t accept treatment cannot be forcefully discharged, as long as there are alternative treatments.

A mother’s dignity

Conventions in most countries specifically state that the person’s welfare is of more importance than any social or scientific interest. In university hospitals, it’s also an obligation to warn the patients about the use of prognosis, diagnosis and different techniques in a teaching situation or scientific project.

Personnel identification in childbirth care

The woman has the right to know and identify all the medical staff who’ll be present at the birth. This includes fundamental aspects such as their names, the roles they will play, their qualifications and the medical centers they work in.

Legal Rights Regarding Birth Care

Documentation for birth care

The complete medical history, signed consent forms and a birth plan are fundamental elements which can be used in any potential claims. The different forms that each establishment has have the aim of informing the patients and giving them the possibility of choosing from the different options available.

These types of documents contain information regarding the communication between the patient and medical professionals. Included in this information will be statements in which the mother acknowledges the fulfillment of her rights, of the information provided to her, and of the choices offered to her.

The birth plan also fulfills the function of a legal document which identifies the future mother’s wishes. When faced with special cases, the patients have the right to compare and contrast ideas with other establishments. Doctors have the obligation to adapt to the mother’s wishes and to follow medical protocol in this regard.

In conclusion

Every person who is going to give birth has the same rights in public health establishments, regardless of their race, gender, or social, moral, economic, ideological, or political status.

  • BOE. Ley 41/2002, de 14 de noviembre, básica reguladora de la autonomía del paciente y de derechos y obligaciones en materia de información y documentación clínica. Extraído de: https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2002-22188
  • BOE. Instrumento de Ratificación del Convenio para la protección de los derechos humanos y la dignidad del ser humano con respecto a las aplicaciones de la Biología y la Medicina (Convenio relativo a los derechos humanos y la biomedicina), hecho en Oviedo el 4 de abril de 1997. Extraido de: https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1999-20638