Doc denies abortion after husband intervenes

A doctor who cancelled a woman's abortion against her wishes after talks with the husband raised concerns about her mental health has been taken to task by Swedish health authorities for overstepping her mandate.

The patient met the doctor at a gynaecology clinic in western Sweden in 2010 and asked for an abortion, telling the doctor she didn’t want to carry the pregnancy to full term.

The woman explained further that she hadn’t been feeling well over the unwanted pregnancy.

An appointment for an abortion was scheduled, but the day before the scheduled operation the woman’s husband approached the doctor to inquire if there were any other alternatives.

In a subsequent discussion, the woman reiterated her desire to go through with the abortion, according to a report about the incident from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

But the doctor instead told the woman she was cancelling the appointment because the patient “didn’t seem to be mentally balanced and in a condition to make well-reasoned decisions”.

Instead, the doctor recommended that the woman see a counsellor rather than have an abortion, prompting the woman to once again explain that it was the unwanted pregnancy that was causing her depressed state.

In a complaint filed with the health board, the woman described the doctor’s treatment of her as “insulting”, claiming the doctor had stripped her of the right to make her own decision by unilaterally going against the patient’s wishes.

According to Swedish law, it is the woman herself who has the final say on whether or not she should have an abortion.

In issuing it’s critique of the doctor’s actions, the health board explained that it’s not the responsibility of the doctor to reflect on how “well-reasoned” a woman’s decision is, but rather to simply carry out the patient’s wishes.

The doctor was also slammed for breaching patient confidentiality by discussion the woman’s case with her husband and coming to an agreement with him that the woman should have further discussions before having the abortion.

“The confidentiality which covers medical procedures, including abortions, also applies to the patient’s relatives,” the health board wrote.

David Landes

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