February 3, 2011 | Posted By Bruce D. White, DO, JD

About a year ago, the St. Petersburg Times reported that a Florida Circuit Court judge ordered that a 29-year-old mother of two, then 25-weeks pregnant, remain hospitalized involuntarily to protect the fetus. The newspaper quoted the judge as saying that the state had the authority “to ensure that children receive medical treatment which is necessary for the preservation of life and health.” (One early report may be found here.)

The reason the judge got involved was at the request of the woman’s attending physician who had asked the patient to quit smoking and to remain in bed to improve the odds for an improved outcome at delivery. The woman was dissatisfied with the care and requested to go elsewhere for treatment. The court intervened at the physician’s request with support from a state attorney. Unfortunately, the mother delivered a stillborn child a few days later.

In this case, the doctor, the state attorney, and the judge acted improperly under the state’s child welfare statutes. On appeal to the Florida Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, Judge Nikki Clark wrote an opinion last August that favored the patient’s rights over the state’s interests. The court ruled that the pregnant woman has fundamental rights to privacy under the Florida constitution and that any state interference was subject to strict scrutiny. (Click here for more information on the ruling.)

The Court of Appeals decision is consistent with several state and federal court decisions and the published view of the American Medical Association (AMA):

The AMA has reminded physicians that their duty is to ensure that a pregnant woman is provided with the necessary and appropriate information to enable her to make an informed decision about her fetus and that that duty does not extend to attempting to influence her decision or attempting to force a recommended procedure upon her.

(See this link for more information on forced cesarean deliveries.)

3 comments | Topics: Bioethics in the Media , Doctor-Patient Relationships , Patient Autonomy



FatCow wrote on 06/15/11 5:18 AM

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Mercedes-Benz Mobil Mewah Terbaik Indonesia

Mercedes-Benz Mobil Mewah Terbaik Indonesia wrote on 07/08/11 10:31 AM

Useful information ..I am very happy to read this article..thanks for giving us this useful information. Fantastic walk-through. I appreciate this post.
perawatan bayi sehari-hari

perawatan bayi sehari-hari wrote on 08/28/13 5:40 AM

I wish it all the state has the authority to ensure the children receive medical care certainly a very severe risk of illness and death can be reduced :)

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.