Respect for medical care… for MEDICAL events

Vancouver Birth Rally

When we began rallying in June, the Vancouver Birth Rally group intended for the rallies to just run over the summer. But they have been so successful that we’ve decided to keep going with them through the fall!

The rallies have done a great job of raising awareness about some very important issues regarding informed consent and transparency in health care. Our youtube videos have had thousands of views, and the videos and blog posts about our rallies have stimulated lots of debate. We love the conversation that our rallies have gotten started!

Last week, at our most recent Vancouver Birth Rally, a passer-by stopped by to chat. We always get excited when this happens, because biggest goal of our rallies is to promote dialogue.

The passer-by brought up a topic that is a common misconception about our group and our rallies. She said “If it wasn’t for hospital care, my baby’s heart condition would not have been diagnosed” and implied that hospital care saved her baby’s life.

I was really happy she brought this up, because I think some people are under the impression that we don’t understand the importance of access to good medical care.

The Vancouver Birth Rally group, which is now affiliated with Humanize Birth, is NOT anti-doctor or anti-hospital! We are extremely appreciative of the access women and newborns have to quality medical care designed to handle serious medical conditions or complications with well trained, expert professionals.

What we DON’T like is dishonesty about risks of interventions and times when procedures with serious risks that can potentially CAUSE medical problems in mom and baby are performed without a mother’s informed consent, or the opportunity for informed refusal.

Thanks to all the nurses, doctors and midwives who prioritise the practice of informed consent (you’re out there! I’ve worked with some of you and am so thankful Vancouver has you!!!).

But I’ve also worked with some who need to learn and understand the importance of informed consent/refusal laws and implement them into their practice. Although there are informed consent laws and policies in place, I know from witnessing events first-hand that they are not always practised appropriately, and sometimes they are not practised at all.

In fact, another passer-by stopped to speak with us at yesterday’s rally as well. She stared at us in disbelief, incredulous that we were standing their holding signs that said “Stop Obstetric Violence” and “Mothers Provide The Best In Newborn Intensive Care.” She had just happened to be at the hospital dropping of a letter telling the story of her own birth-related trauma and subsequent PTSD over the bullying and coercion she experienced with the care of her newborn. She was filled with emotion, and thrilled to see that she was not the only one who saw a problem with the way women and their babies are sometimes treated in the hospital and that there were other women speaking up about it.

One way for the hospital to really improve quality of patient care would be to educate their staff in the importance of informed consent and emphasize it’s necessity as a part of routine care. We’d also like to see hospitals implement or strengthen systems of accountability when staff fail to follow the informed consent laws. Failure to practice informed consent has huge implications, including the often downplayed post-traumatic stress disorder many women experience as a result of their birth experiences.

If you’d like to hear stories from women who have had their informed consent rights violated by medical staff here in Vancouver and elsewhere, please read Women’s Stories on the Humanize Birth website.

We’ve just begun collecting stories, so keep an eye on the page as it’s expanded, or contact Humanize birth to share your own story.

For more information on these issues, please see:

Post by Jessica Austin: Jessica is a member of Humanize birth, a birth advocate and a doula in Vancouver, BC. She focuses on supporting birthing women who have previously difficult or traumatic birth experiences. Click here for information about her services.
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