Refusal of recommended maternity care: Time to make a pact with women?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2018, 31 (6), pp. 433 - 441
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© 2018 Background: The right to refuse medical treatment can be contentious in maternity care. Professional guidance for midwives and obstetricians emphasises informed consent and respect for patient autonomy, but there is little guidance available to clinicians about the appropriate clinical responses when women decline recommended care. Objectives: We propose a comprehensive, woman-centred, systems-level framework for documentation and communication with the goal of supporting women, clinicians and health services in situations of maternal refusal. We term this the Personalised Alternative Care and Treatment framework. Discussion: The Personalised Alternative Care and Treatment framework addresses Australian policy, practice, education and professional issues to underpin woman-centred care in the context of maternal refusal. It embeds Respectful Maternity Care in system-level maternity care policy; highlights the woman's role as decision maker about her maternity care; documents information exchanged with women; creates a ‘living’ plan that respects the woman's birth intentions and can be reviewed as circumstances change; enables communication between clinicians; permits flexible initiation pathways; provides for professional education for clinicians, and incorporates a mediation role to act as a failsafe. Conclusion: The Personalised Alternative Care and Treatment framework has the potential to meet the needs of women, clinicians and health services when pregnant women decline recommended maternity care.
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