Many have blogged about the New Jersey mother who lost her parental rights for refusing a C-section and acting erratically during labor. What is unclear is whether she refused to sign permission for a C-section in the event one was indicated or if she refused when the baby was in distress and doctors wanted to perform one. It may be a moot point, considering the child was born vaginally and without complications, but still there is a clear distinction between signing a cart blanche permission to allow doctors to do whatever they want before the need arises, and refusing care when an unborn child is experiencing fetal distress.
The parents’ rights have now been terminated and the court cites chronic mental illness on both their parts as the reason. (The mother had received mental health care for 12 years prior to the incident.) Many blogs make the point that if the mother had not refused a C-section, her mental health would not have been in question. We don’t necessarily agree.
If this couple was receiving on-going care for chronic mental illness, Child Protective Services likely would have been notified about their case by their mental health worker. But so little is known about the actual facts in this case (and the links to the court ruling are broken on multiple sites), most of what is posted is assumption.
In another case in 2004, a mother was charged with murder for refusing a C-section for her twins. One was stillborn. This mother also had drug and alcohol issues. The case was plea bargained and the murder charge was dropped.
While both of these cases have extenuating circumstances, it is still quite clear that a woman no longer has the right to refuse an invasive procedure without facing parental termination or, in the case of a child’s death, murder charges.