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Miriam Stoppard's verdict.

I SYMPATHISE with the doctors in this case. They went ahead because a caesarean is sometimes the only way to stop pre-eclamptic toxaemia killing mother and baby.

But it's a dilemma for them when the woman refuses treatment.

Our courts have been reluctant to suggest the rights of the unborn child should override those of the mother. But most of us would assume they were equal.

Certainly the pro-lifers would. If, in their eyes, it's murder to abort an eight-week foetus, what is it to refuse treatment for an almost full- term baby and, in effect, let it die?

Yesterday three appeal judges ruled that an unborn child's need for medical aid does not prevail over the rights of its mother to refuse treatment. I know there are far too many unnecessary Caesareans performed in this country.

I know that there are basic human rights issues involved when doctors treat patients who've stated they don't want help.

But the law here is saying that a woman has the right not to be treated even if her life or that of her unborn child depends on it.

This seems to contravene a very basic natural law and highlights the conflict between the rights of a mother and those of her baby.

I'd fight with my last breath for a woman's legal right to question the actions of doctors.

But how far should she be allowed to go when the death of her unborn baby is the consequence?
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Author:Stoppard, Miriam
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 8, 1998
Words:246
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