Choices

  

Welcome to the Choices Page

 

This page is about the general idea Informed Consent in health care.  The tabs under the Choices tab  have information and viewpoints about many birth and health care matters that need your informed decisions as your family grows–feel free to explore them.

  

Informed Consent in Health Care

“Informed Consent” is a right of all people under the law, acknowledging our sovereignty over our own bodies and our children’s–our right to make choices about our health or medical care.  Having Informed Consent means first, understanding all proposed treatments, and giving our consent, before allowing any treatments.  Informed Consent law requires that care providers give us information about  proposed care in language we understand; it means they must receive our consent, before performing any treatment.  You have a right to know the benefits and risks of proposed treatments; the benefits and risks of alternative treatments–including the alternative of ‘doing nothing for the time being’. 

Saying the term “Informed Consent” is a way of naming our right of informed consent or refusal, for all proposed care.  Informed Consent means having enough information to choose wisely; it means exercising our right to consider options privately and without duress, and make choices freely, without threat.  The exception to this rule is for urgent or emergency conditions, when a person is unconscious, or too disoriented to fully understand and make important decisions—especially if care must be immediately administered (in the care giver’s opinion) to save a life.  Then, care providers can work with ‘assumed consent’ to begin with.  Parents hold the right and responsibility for informed choice on behalf of their children, at least for the most part; later we’ll discuss the exceptions.  As long as there is some time to safely learn about treatments, we have the right to choose our care.

I founded WomynWise Services on the idea that our responsible empowerment in birth and healing work is how we best serve our health and safe births.  We enact ‘responsible empowerment’ whenever we make informed choices about our care–daily health care and occasional healing care we give to ourselves, along with hiring care providers to help us at times.  Care providers may or may not willingly give all the information we need about treatments, benefits, risks, alternatives; also, many medical providers are not aware of all the alternatives to the forms of care they offer.  Thus, a responsibly empowered family can pursue Informed Consent, can actively seek information needed for them to give their consent or refusal.  Know it’s your legal right to take part in your own and families’ care this way, as well as a natural responsibility of parents.  Know that care providers are legally obligated to serve informed consent, as part of providing humane, respectful care–this can make all the difference for families making informed, responsible care choices for mothers and babies.

~O~

  

Dear Readers: Please use the comment box at the bottom of this page, to share your viewpoint or questions on this essay, along with the topics on the linked pages–and to suggest other topics or links if you like.  I will move comments and links that support a topic to the correct page, and add new topic pages, too, as I build this Informed Consent Reading Room.   Below is a brief history of Informed Consent and the law.

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The History of Informed Consent Law

  

The idea of our human right to have sovereignty over our own bodies, to choose the treatments we’ll receive from care providers, came to us through a back door: the Nuremberg Trials following World War II showed us the horrors of medical experimentation carried out on Jews and others imprisoned in Nazi Concentration Camps.  A decade later, Tuskegee Air Base doctors conducted a lethal mass medical experiment upon African-American Airmen–exposing them intentionally to syphilis, and withholding treatment so the doctors could study the course of the disease.  Bringing these horrors to light brought something home to lawmakers: there is something wrong with government and medical authorities teaming up to do things to people without their consent. 

Governments in the US and elsewhere agreed that the ‘greater good’, potentially served by medical experiments, must be held second to each person’s right to choose for their own good.  While in extreme circumstances they agreed that the greater good must be first, to save the greatest number, lawmakers decided governments must protect all people’s ordinary right of rule over their own bodies.  New laws—clarified by court-rulings over time—also affirmed parents’ natural responsibility and right to make health care choices for their children.  Informed Consent Law was created with wisdom born from atrocities of our past, as a powerful but simple idea, easy enough for people and their health-care providers to act out.

 But another historical trend has energetically opposed informed consent: the development of allopathy (‘western medicine’, ‘medical practice’).  Allopathy, represented by the AMA and worldwide brother-organizations, has sold itself—and we have bought it–as the most advanced, scientific, mechanically-precise and the most beneficial healing science humans ever invented.  Medical guilds used advertising campaigns to sell allopathy as The One True Medicine, carrying out campaigns against other healing sciences along the way.   They lobbied lawmakers to support new laws giving allopathy more power over health care generally.  For  100+ years while developing its philosophy of care, its science and applications, allopathy also pursued prominence in the health care marketplace and law— essentially opposing Informed Consent by creating a near-monopoly in health care. 

Commentary and Current Trends in Informed Consent 

 Fifty years before Informed Consent was born, we’d put allopathy at the top of the Health-Care Pyramid, agreeing with AMA propagandists that it was The Gold Standard.  We’d already given the business of allopathy much power to rule public health care—to dictate availability and regulation of all branches of healing, and to have authority over people’s care choices in any situation.   Nazi and Air Force medical experimentation was possible expressly because we had already too-greatly empowered doctors (and the medical guilds) in our lives.  Many horrors were born partly from this unlimited empowerment of doctors and the science of allopathy in general; we created Informed Consent laws to help us fight that tide.  But the AMA and affiliates have only increased efforts to control health care, since the advent of Informed Consent:  informed choice is the natural enemy of allopathy’s power and profit goals.  Simply explained, informed clients empower themselves instead of doctors, and people will not always choose to pay for ‘medical practice’ when other health practices are readily available. 

Now we have far fewer legally-supported options than we did when allopathy was born as just another healing science among many of value to our health and healing-care.   Now, your doctor, ‘explaining alternative treatments’, can often only explain alternatives from inside allopathy.  S/he may have little or no good information to share about birth and health practices that the AMA successfully wiped-out—nor about those that allopathy just doesn’t approve of.  Now, “Medical Practice” represents a multi-billion-dollar group of enterprises including the insurance and medical technology fields, its success largely stemming from monopolizing business and legal tactics.  Our ‘Medical-Pharmaceutical Complex’ constantly keeps pressure on our legislatures and courts, to gain even more power all the time—making it harder than ever for people to make informed choices.  Now more families face court-ordered treatment and other legal threats, including threat of criminal prosecution, if they seek care with informed consent instead of following doctor’s orders.

Many other factors have contributed to both history and current events of Informed Consent: developments in technology and biological sciences; trends in government and economics, as well as various social trends, to name some.  I acknowledge that many interconnecting elements influence the web we have woven, without discussing them all here.  Yet the tension I’ve described above is a central influence on Informed Consent today:  the humane idea of our right to have power over our bodies for our own benefit, has always met with medical-institution will to have power over us for its benefit.   Understanding that struggle can help people decide what to do about it in their own lives, as the need arises to make health care decisions.  We can prepare ourselves just by knowing that struggle will play some part in our health care.  For some, it will primarily lie in the need to carefully search out birth and health services that are beyond the borders of medical practice; some will have to find ways to pay for services not recognized by insurance companies.  We can prepare ourselves as well, just by knowing that doctors, the courts, or social services may challenge some of our choices–but  knowing, too, that we do have a right to informed choice that the law must respect when weighing arguments against our choices.

As the ones seeking health care throughout our lives, and as the only ones who will live forevermore with the results of the care we receive, we have to keep making those choices, and defend them as needed.  This is how we can create the benefits of informed choice in our lives—benefits to health and family life that is our normal right: to receive respectful care, and to have many health and healing-care options that are well-supported in law and practice.  It is not the Informed Consent law or the lawmaker, not the doctors and hospital administrators who will give us our right of sovereignty over our bodies.  In our choosing, we act on that right and make it real for ourselves.

Note: Below I will eventually post some links to support this essay, and if you want to learn even more you can paste these terms into your search engine: court-ordered cesarean; court-ordered medical care; history of informed consent; informed consent law; history of the American Medical Association; history of US midwives, and other search-terms you may think of.

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