It’s Not About the Patient

Judge declares North Carolina ultrasound law unconstitutional: 

Informed consent frequently consists of a fully-clothed conversation between the patient and physician, often in the physician’s office. It is driven by the “patient’s particular needs and circumstances” …  so that the patient receives the information he or she wants in a setting that promotes an informed and thoughtful choice. This provision, however, finds the patient half-naked or disrobed on her back on an examination table, with an ultrasound probe either on her belly or inserted into her vagina. … Informed consent has not generally been thought to require a patient to view images from his or her own body much less in a setting in which personal judgment may be altered or impaired. Yet this provision requires that she do so or “avert her eyes.” Rather than engaging in a conversation calculated to inform, the physician must continue talking regardless of whether the patient is listening. … The information is provided irrespective of the needs or wants of the patient, in direct contravention of medical ethics and the principle of patient autonomy. Forcing this experience on a patient over her objections in this manner interferes with the decision of a patient not to receive information that could make an indescribably difficult decision even more traumatic and could “actually cause harm to the patient.” … And it is intended to convey not the risks and benefits of the medical procedure to the patient’s own health, but rather the full weight of the state’s moral condemnation.

I had approximately three dozen transvaginal ultrasounds when trying to have Kick. Thirty-five of them were submitted to willingly, and they were often unsettling or uncomfortable.

One was done at the behest of a doctor I never should have listened to, who demanded I do it before he would consult on my case despite my insistence that he talk to me first. That one was horrifying, and I still shudder when I drive past the guy’s office.

All of those ultrasounds, however, made me feel profoundly vulnerable, and laws like this are designed to do exactly what the judge describes in this opinion: Make a woman who is already there because she has a problem feel like absolute shit for no reason at all. Republican legislatures do this in order to punish women. It’s the only possible reason for laws like this to exist.

And they will not save “unborn children,” either.


2 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Patient

  1. I went to the dentist several years ago for some work. After getting well novocained, the dentist got to work, and discovered that the situation was worse than he thought, and more extensive work was going to be needed. In the middle of everything, he excused himself from the room and left me in the chair. After a couple of minutes, one of the staff persons came in with a consent form. If I wanted the dentist to proceed, I had to sign the form and agree to a couple of thousand dollars worth of work.

    I was more than a little loopy, but I understood what was being asked of me. I wasn’t sure what might have happened if I had declined to sign; maybe the dentist would have come back, done a little remedial work so I wasn’t left with a gaping hole in my teeth and jaw, but who really knew? I signed, and things proceeded from there.

    Afterwards, I got to thinking about the episode and felt more than a little insulted. I had been a patient at that dentist for a couple of years, made every appointment, paid my bill before leaving the office every time, and generally been what I would consider a model patient. Now if I felt a little resentful over this treatment, how much more violative is the North Carolina law for someone in a far more vulnerable position?

    Nice to see that the judge got it right. It’s preposterous that this sort of hoop-jumping is being imposed on the citizenry and being stopped only because a judge sees through the chicanery for what it is.

  2. Our law here in NC was enacted by teatards who want to punish women, full stop. The teatards are, of course, seeking a foothold in the state’s judiciary. So far, knock on wood, they haven’t gotten much of one, but preventing them from getting any further will require constant vigilance.

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