Imagine carrying a baby to term. You’ve waited nine long months for this moment. You’ve planned for her arrival, you’ve had the baby shower, and you’ve gone to all your prenatal appointments. All along you are told that you are progressing normally and your baby is healthy. Your delivery day comes and, at delivery, your doctor tells you your baby has a devastating abnormality. A cardiac defect or a severe structural abnormality or chromosomal abnormality... something that was likely already detected early in your pregnancy.
You then discover your doctor withheld this information from you for fear you would seek an abortion. What a nightmare.
Unfortunately, the Arizona legislation is working to make this nightmare a reality. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would prohibit any medical malpractice lawsuits against physicians who chose to withhold valuable information regarding their patient’s pregnancy that could lead her and her family to seek termination. Much to my chagrin, this type of legislation is already law in Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and is being discussed in Kansas.
But fear not! Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), who sponsored the bill, has allowed for medical malpractice suits for “intentional or grossly negligent” acts. I would be interested to hear where Senator Barto draws her line of allowable omissions and unacceptable exclusions.
Although I am not a lawyer, I am a doctor and what this law is proposing is horrific and against everything we, as physicians, learn throughout medical school and our training.
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My role as a physician, specifically an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, is to provide my patients with safe, quality care, and to provide them with information to help them make informed decisions. I may follow my patients through their pregnancy and deliver their children, but I do not participate in the care of that child or share the responsibilities in raising the child. Viewing a patient’s ultrasound of her pregnancy and knowingly omitting information that could change her and her family’s life is unimaginable. And it is malpractice.
I respect my patients, I trust them to make the best decision for themselves and their families, and I trust my colleagues to do the same. I, as a physician, have no right to make medical decisions for my patients based purely on what I think is best or based on my religious beliefs.
As physicians, it is our job to inform patients, not make decisions for them.
This bill will move to the Arizona House at an undetermined time.