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Reproductive Health » Pregnancy and the Refusal of Treatment


Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s4 NSW
The definition of Grievous Bodily Harm includes the destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm. Makes clear that the foetus is to be treated as part of the woman.

Toolkits and Protocols

Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues
Nuffield Bioethics

Fetal Welfare and the Law
AMA Position Statement (members access)

Maternal Decision-Making – 2013
Australian Medical Association Position Statement

National Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Drug Use During Pregnancy, Birth and the Early Development Years of the Newborn
NSW Health

Stillbirth – Management and Investigation
NSW Health Policy


Qumsieh v GAB and Pilgrim [1998] VSA 45 Vic
Highlights some of the issues with the refusal of medical treatment, the use of advance care directives and guardianship orders.

Re MB (1997) 38 BMLR 175 (Court of Appeal) UK
A competent woman can refuse a caesarean even if it means the child’s and/or her own death.

St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S (1998) 44 BMLR 160 (CA) UK
no link
Case of a pregnant woman who refused treatment even though she and her child were in danger of dying without treatment. Held that she had a right to refuse treatment.

Papers, Reports and Books

Australia’s Mothers and Babies Report 2010
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

New South Wales Mothers and Babies Report
NSW Health

Court-ordered care – a complication of pregnancy to avoid
JD Cantor, (2012) 366 (24) New England Journal of Medicine, 2237-40.

Rights, Duties and the Body: Law and Ethics of the Maternal-Fetal Conflict
Rosamund Scott, (Hart Publishing, Oregon 2002).

Birthing outside the system : perceptions of risk amongst Australian women who have freebirths and high risk homebirths

Jackson, M, Dahlen, H and Schmied V, 2011 28 (5) Midwifery 561 – 567

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