Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Respect for bodily autonomy?

ABC News has published a Top Ten List of critters that give painful stings or bites or such. The stonefish packs quite a whallop:

"I got spiked on the finger by a stonefish in Australia … never mind a bee sting. … Imagine having each knuckle, then the wrist, elbow and shoulder being hit in turn with a sledgehammer over the course of about an hour. Then about an hour later imagine taking a real kicking to both kidneys for about 45 minutes so that you couldn't stand or straighten up. I was late 20s, pretty fit physically and this was the tiniest of nicks. Got sensation back in my finger after a few days but had recurrent kidney pains periodically for several years afterwards."

The report continues, "Other stories describe sting victims wanting to have their stung limb amputated from their body."

Now, here's the question: If a doctor is at hand, with the capacity to provide the requested amputation, should he:

A. Perform the requested amputation. The patient has a right to make decisions about his body. The patient is in such horrible pain, and it would be cruel and condescending for the doctor to refuse the request.

B. Inform that the pain is self-limiting, and that the desire for amputation will abate when the pain does.

Now, many of you would scoff, saying that patients would realize that the pain is self-limiting and will go away. But what if he didn't?

That's the situation of many women contemplating abortion. Panic and rejection are normal in early pregnancy, often accompanied by the idea that an abortion would be the best way to proceed. But these feelings are normal and typically self-limiting. They go away with time.

Ought not a responsible physician inform the woman requesting abortion that, like the stonefish-stung patient, she is in the throes of something that is self-limiting, that will pass?

Why aren't women told this? Why is the normal ambivalence and rejection of early pregnancy instead treated as some sort of "proof" that the woman is truly unready or unfit to welcome her baby?

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Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for this posting. I can attest to the given time... Once when I got GASP pregnant I panicked. "What have I done?" My health is compromised when I'm pregnant, and I'm an old broad. I had a lousy OB with the previous pregnancy/delivery. All did not go well. All this rolled in my head for a week. I wondered if Abortion was a legitmate option. I had a nurse, who herself was 22 weeks pregnant, at my GP's office even tell me that abortion is not good or bad. It just is, and if this pregnancy is so distressing, only I could really know my body. I basically heard, "I can't live my life and make decisions based on fear." right out of my mouth. That was that. So "No" to abortion. I had peace for the first time in more than a week.

Your posting was great. I had so much misplaced guilt feelings about how I felt early in that pregnancy.

Christina Dunigan said...

Hugs, anon.

Feelings are just that -- feelings. It's how we respond to them that makes us who we are.