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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Dr Elizabeth Chloe Romanis

Romanis, Elizabeth Chloe & Nelson, Anna (2020). Maternal request caesareans and COVID-19: the virus does not diminish the importance of choice in childbirth. Journal of Medical Ethics 46(11): 726-731.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

It has recently been reported that some hospitals in the UK have placed a blanket restriction on the provision of maternal request caesarean sections (MRCS) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pregnancy and birthing services are obviously facing challenges during the current emergency, but we argue that a blanket ban on MRCS is both inappropriate and disproportionate. In this paper, we highlight the importance of MRCS for pregnant people’s health and autonomy in childbirth and argue that this remains crucial during the current emergency. We consider some potential arguments—based on pregnant people’s health and resource allocation—that might be considered justification for the limitation of such services. We demonstrate, however, that these arguments are not as persuasive as they might appear because there is limited evidence to indicate either that provision of MRCS is always dangerous for pregnant people in the circumstances or would be a substantial burden on a hospital’s ability to respond to the pandemic. Furthermore, we argue that even if MRCS was not a service that hospitals are equipped to offer to all pregnant persons who seek it, the current circumstances cannot justify a blanket ban on an important service and due attention must be paid to individual circumstances.