Fla. woman fights ruling that kept her in hospital

Bill Kaczor of the Associated Press reports:

Samantha Burton wanted to leave the hospital. Her doctor strongly disagreed, enough to go to court to keep her there.

She smoked cigarettes during the first six months of her pregnancy and was admitted on a false alarm of premature labor. Her doctor argued she was risking a miscarriage if she didn’t quit smoking immediately and stay on bed rest in the hospital, and a judge agreed.

Three days after the judge ordered her not to leave the hospital, Burton delivered a stillborn fetus by cesarian-section (sic).

And six months after the pregnancy ended, the dispute over the legal move to keep her in the hospital continues, raising questions about where a mother’s right to decide her own medical treatment ends and where the priority of protecting a fetus begins.

Read more on AJC.

It is disturbing to me to see such cases still being fought, and the article mentions some earlier court decisions on this type of question. The story ends with a statement from Dr. Michael Grodin, a physician and professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University:

“People have the absolute right to refuse treatment …,” Grodin said. “It’s unconscionable. … It’s an affront to women.”

The doctors in this case did not have informed consent from a woman who was capable of providing informed consent. The judge’s order was not only an affront to women, but it is a threat to patient privacy and self-determination, attempts to justify it notwithstanding.

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