Insights & Articles
What Are Birth Rights?
When pregnant, in labour or delivering a baby you have certain rights. For example you have the right to:
- Choice of birth place
- Informed consent
- To be treated with respect and dignity
- To have care provided free from harassment
- To refuse treatment or interventions
- To continuous support during labour
Common Violations of Rights
One of the most common violations of birth rights is the erosion of a woman’s fundamental right to informed consent. Examples of this type of violation are:
- Membrane sweep or stretch and sweep without consent
- Episiotomy without consent
- Physical examinations without consent
- Forced or coerced caesarian sections
You also have the right to pregnancy, labour and birth care that is free from mistreatment. This can look like:
- Physical abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Sexual abuse
Who is Most at Risk?
Unfortunately, those most at risk are also those who are the least likely to speak up:
- Black, indigenous and people of colour
- Those from lower socioeconomic group
- Those with a language barrier
- Those who are young
This however does not mean only people from these groups experience rights violations, as rights violations have been and remain an ongoing issues for all pregnant woman.
What to do if Your Rights are Violated
The best way to prevent rights violations is to know your rights and to have to knowledge to make informed decisions regarding your pregnancy and birth. If your rights have been violated there are various avenues you can take:
- Speak up and speak out
- File a complain with the regulating body
- File a human rights complaint
- File a lawsuit for medical malpractice
- Pursue criminal charges
Speaking up and speaking out can help others do the same. It can also assist in educating others who then may be in a better position to advocate for themselves. This is not easy.
You can file a compliant with the regulating body. This may be the College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Nurses of Ontario, or the College of Midwives of Ontario.
Before filing a human rights complaint or issuing a lawsuit it is best to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case and your options. You may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses to name a few.
In some circumstances you may also want to speak to the police about potential criminal charges, especially if assault was involved.
None of the above noted options are easy. It can be quite difficult to speak out about these issues. It is recommended to first seek out a proper support network be it a social worker, counselor, trusted friend or family member.
If you think that your rights have been violated and/or your health care provided did something wrong during the course of your care, please feel free to reach out to me to discuss further. As always, I provide a free initial consultation.
This article was written by Personal Injury Lawyer Catherine Shearer.