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Women’s and Provider’s Moral Reasoning About the Permissibility of Coercion in Birth: A Descriptive Ethics Study


Eichinger, Johanna; Büchler, Andrea; Arnold, Louisa; Rost, Michael (2024). Women’s and Provider’s Moral Reasoning About the Permissibility of Coercion in Birth: A Descriptive Ethics Study. Health Care Analysis:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Evidence shows that during birth women frequently experience unconsented care, coercion, and a loss of autonomy. For many countries, this contradicts both the law and medical ethics guidelines, which emphasize that competent and fully informed women’s autonomy must always be respected. To better understand this discordance, we empirically describe perinatal maternity care providers’ and women’s moral deliberation surrounding coercive measures during birth. Data were obtained from 1-on-1 interviews with providers (N = 15) and women (N = 14), and a survey of women (N = 118). Analyses focused on an in-depth exploration of responses to a question on the permissibility of coercion in birth whose wording was borrowed from a Swiss medical-ethical guideline. Reasons for and against a principle permissibility of coercive measures in birth were grouped into clusters of reasons to build a coherent explanatory framework. Factors considered morally relevant when deliberating on coercion included women’s decisional capacity, beneficence/non-maleficence, authority through knowledge on the part of providers, flaws of the medical system, or the imperative to protect the most vulnerable. Also, we identified various misconceptions, such as the conviction that a pathological birth can justify coercion or that fetal rights can justifiably infringe on women’s autonomy. Information and education on the issue of coercion in birth are urgently needed to enable women to fully exercise their reproductive autonomy, to prevent long-term adverse health outcomes of women and children, and to reconcile the medical vigilance which has lead to a reduction of perinatal morbidity and mortality with women’s enfranchisement in their own care.

Abstract

Evidence shows that during birth women frequently experience unconsented care, coercion, and a loss of autonomy. For many countries, this contradicts both the law and medical ethics guidelines, which emphasize that competent and fully informed women’s autonomy must always be respected. To better understand this discordance, we empirically describe perinatal maternity care providers’ and women’s moral deliberation surrounding coercive measures during birth. Data were obtained from 1-on-1 interviews with providers (N = 15) and women (N = 14), and a survey of women (N = 118). Analyses focused on an in-depth exploration of responses to a question on the permissibility of coercion in birth whose wording was borrowed from a Swiss medical-ethical guideline. Reasons for and against a principle permissibility of coercive measures in birth were grouped into clusters of reasons to build a coherent explanatory framework. Factors considered morally relevant when deliberating on coercion included women’s decisional capacity, beneficence/non-maleficence, authority through knowledge on the part of providers, flaws of the medical system, or the imperative to protect the most vulnerable. Also, we identified various misconceptions, such as the conviction that a pathological birth can justify coercion or that fetal rights can justifiably infringe on women’s autonomy. Information and education on the issue of coercion in birth are urgently needed to enable women to fully exercise their reproductive autonomy, to prevent long-term adverse health outcomes of women and children, and to reconcile the medical vigilance which has lead to a reduction of perinatal morbidity and mortality with women’s enfranchisement in their own care.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Health (social science)
Health Sciences > Issues, Ethics and Legal Aspects
Health Sciences > Health Policy
Uncontrolled Keywords:Health Policy, Health (social science), Issues, ethics and legal aspects
Language:English
Date:23 January 2024
Deposited On:27 Feb 2024 11:50
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:40
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1065-3058
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10728-024-00480-4
PubMed ID:38261096
Project Information:
  • : FunderResearch Fund Junior Researchers, University of Basel
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderUniversity of Basel
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)