Bioethics Blogs

Legal Briefing: Unwanted Cesareans and Obstetric Violence

In my latest legal briefing for the Journal of Clinical Ethics, I discuss “Legal Briefing: Unwanted Cesareans and Obstetric Violence.”


A capacitated pregnant woman has a nearly unqualified right to refuse a cesarean section. Her right to say “no” takes precedence over clinicians’ preferences and even over clinicians’ concerns about fetal health. Leading medical societies, human rights organizations, and appellate courts have all endorsed this principle. Nevertheless, clinicians continue to limit reproductive liberty by forcing and coercing women to have unwanted cesareans. This “Legal Briefing” reviews recent court cases involving this type of obstetric violence. I have organized these court cases into the following six categories:
1.   Epidemic of Unwanted Cesareans
2.   Court-Ordered Cesareans
3.   Physician-Coerced Cesareans
4.   Physician-Ordered Cesareans
5.   Cesareans for Incapacitated Patients
6.   Cesareans for Patients in a Vegetative State or Who Are Brain Dead


Legal Briefing: Unwanted Cesareans and Obstetric Violence
Thaddeus Mason Pope, The Journal of Clinical Ethics 28, no. 2 (Summer 2017): 163-73.

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.