“Obstetric violence”: maternal mistreatment in healthcare settings

Congratulations to Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M., a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, whose article, partly based on his Master of Laws thesis,* was recently published in Reproductive Health Matters’ special section on abuse and mistreatment in healthcare settings.  The author can be reached at charlie.herrera {at} mail, utoronto, ca.

Obstetric violence: a new framework for identifying challenges to maternal healthcare in Argentina, by Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, Reproductive Health Matters 24.47(May 2016):65-73.  Full text and abstracts in English, French and Spanish.

Abstract:  Argentina has recognized women’s right to not be subjected to obstetric violence, the violence exercised by health personnel on the body and reproductive processes of pregnant women, as expressed through dehumanizing treatment, medicalization abuse, and the conversion of natural processes of reproduction into pathological ones.  Argentina’s legislative decision to frame this abuse and mistreatment of women under the rubric of gender-based violence permits the identification of failures in both the healthcare system and women’s participation in society. This article examines how applying the Violence Against Women framework to address issues of abuse and mistreatment of women during maternal health care provides a beneficial approach for analyzing such embedded structural problems from public health, human rights, and ethics perspectives. The framework of Violence Against Women seeks to transform existing harmful cultural practices, not only through the protection of women’s reproductive autonomy, but also through the empowerment of women’s participation in society.

Further Reading:
Obstetric Violence in Argentina: a Study on the Legal Effects of Medical Guidelines and Statutory Obligations for Improving the Quality of Maternal Health,  by Carlos Alejandro Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M. Thesis, Graduate Department of the Faculty of Law University of Toronto, 2015 abstracted here.

International Human Rights and the Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth by Rajat Khosla, Christina Zampas, Joshua P. Vogel,  Meghan A. Bohren, Mindy Roseman, and Joanna N. Erdman,  Health and Human Rights Journal  Article in press online.

Other articles from this issue of Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 24, Issue 47 (May 2016)

A newer article:
Elizabeth Kukura, “Obstetric Violence” [in the United States] The Georgetown Law Journal 106 (2018): 721 (2018)  Online here.

Two South African articles about this emerging issue are now online:

  • Eliminating abusive’care’, : A criminal law response to obstetric violence in South Africa by Camilla Pickles. South African Crime Quarterly 54(2015): 5-16.  abstract and full text
  • Obstetric violence in South Africa,”  by Rachelle Joy Chadwick,South African Medical Journal 106.5 (2016): 423-24. [also reviews concept and term]   2-page text.

Autonomy and pregnancy: A comparative analysis of compelled obstetric intervention, by Samantha Halliday (Routledge 2016) draws on law from the U.K., U.S. and Germany, in “circumstances in which courts have declared medical treatment lawful in the face of the pregnant woman’s refusal of consent.”  Autonomy & Pregnancy book.

Relevant Kenyan and South African decisions are available online, with case summaries prepared for Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts, forthcoming in 2017.

  • Millicent Awuor Omuya alias Maimuna Awuor & Another v The Attorney General & 4 Others [2015], Petition No. 562 of 2012, (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division)). [Detaining women for failing to pay for maternal health services violated their constitutional rights]  Case summary.    Decision online.
  • Ntsele v MEC for Health, Gauteng Provincial Government [2012] ZAGPJHC 208 (South Gauteng High Court, South Africa)  [Medical negligence during labour]  Case summaryDecision online.

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