Women’s rights to refuse recommended care

All competent adults have the right to refuse treatment. A woman’s pregnancy status does not impact on her right to self-determination however uncomfortable and conflicted this may make others feel.  Autonomy is essential for respectful maternity care.

Queensland Health have developed a policy that recognises women’s rights to refuse recommended care and confirms ongoing access and care within their services. The policy instructs a doctor, midwife or health practitioner to meet with women in the antenatal period to discuss and document their choices in a Maternity Care Plan, which is then shared with your doctor, midwife or health practitioner. While there is debate as to how consistently this policy is being adhered to, it does provide a symbol of respect for women’s autonomy.

Maternal Health Matters calls on all health services to adopt this policy.