Whatever happened to “Do No Harm”?


Arizona has been making headlines recently for passing several controversial laws that cover a host of different social issues. However, I was shocked to discover that the law that I find most objectionable was also passed in Kansas, and has been in effect in Oklahoma for the past two years. This law was passed in Arizona in early March of this year. The law protects doctors from being sued if they withhold medical information about a pregnancy that might lead the mother to consider abortion.

The law aims to protect anti-abortion doctors from medical malpractice suits in the event that a baby is born with a serious medical condition, and the doctor failed to inform the mother during the pregnancy, for fear that the information would lead to an abortion. I find this idea utterly appalling. Whatever happened to a woman’s right to make informed medical decisions? Much of the language surrounding the new legislation requiring mandatory ultrasounds prior to getting an abortion revolved around helping the woman to making a choice with all the facts at her disposal. This new law flies directly in the face of that sentiment.

The Daily Beast published an excellent article about the new law, laying out both sides of the issue. The part that jumped out to me personally were the accounts regarding wrongful-birth cases. One case that was tried involved a doctor who never performed an ultrasound on a pregnant woman, and he baby was born without arms. The other was about a woman who learned very, very late in her pregnancy that her fetus had no brain. According to the lawyer who tried to case, “Her doctor knew the problem all along but just never told her.”

Regardless of your views on abortion, it cannot be denied that these women were wronged. Even if they had not chosen to terminate the pregnancies, should they not have at least been given some notice about the serious medical problems of their fetuses? Do they not have the right to prepare emotionally to birth a baby that might have physical deformities, mental illness, or a medical condition that would result in a few agonizing weeks of care before death? Doctors are charged to first, do no harm. The idea that they might can be protected from the law, regardless of negligence of their actions, is horrifying.

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4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to “Do No Harm”?

  1. It is amazing this law exists in multiple states. I agree with you that this law seems unjust. It is ridiculous to thik that doctors can withold information from a patient and be protected by law. Especially when the patient is being denied information on their own body and child. This just seems like it would hurt the integrity and reputation of medical care in these states. Most people want to know the whole truth when preparing for one of the most important events of their life. Doesn’t this law constitute breaking other laws, like misrepresentation of information or even medical malpractice?

  2. I also agree with you both that this law is completely unfair and unjust. Like you pointed out, no matter what your views on abortion are, it is a fundamental right to make educated medical decisions. I can’t believe that state governments are basically making it ok for doctors to lie to their patients about their own bodies. Everyone woman should have to right to know everything about herself, including information that can only be obtained from a profession, in this case a doctor. My personal belief is that if a woman is carrying a fetus that will most likely have complications during or after birth, she should have the right to decide if she wants to continue with the pregnancy or have an abortion.

  3. I agree with your overall argument that this law hat nothing to do with abortions. It has to do with the right to knowledge which is what this prevents people from having. The idea that a doctor does not have to tell you about the health of your baby just seems ridiculous. Furthermore, this could potentially lead to medical issues with an infant which could be addressed not being addressed. Honestly, just reading about this law makes me angry and I am just left wondering why and how could someone justify this law.

  4. This law is absolutely ridiculous! And to tell you the truth, I don’t want a doctor to ever withhold medical information from a patient, in any situation. I am trying to think of a situation where that would be a good idea, but nothing comes to mind. And regarding doctors withholding information from expecting mothers, regardless of the issue, an expecting mother needs to have time to be prepared for the life changes that would come with a disabled child. It should never be sprung upon a new mother.

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