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Is informed consent limited during pregnancy?

Although conventional wisdom may caution against taking medications during pregnancy, there may actually be scant research to support that belief.

In fact, abruptly stopping any existing medication regimes might actually do more damage to a patient. For pregnant patients that require medication because of a chronic condition like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, stopping medication may cause even more harm.  

Before making abrupt changes, a pregnant patient should ask her doctor about the facts and existing data surrounding each option. Unfortunately, existing laws make it difficult to be proactive and informed.

Specifically, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to finalize a proposed rule that would require pharmaceutical companies to include information about potential fetal risk in their drug labeling. Existing laws also exclude pregnant women from many types of medical research. Consequently, there may not be enough data about the effects of medication during pregnancy. 

Part of a doctor’s duty of care is monitoring a pregnant patient and advising her of any implications suggested by her test data. For example, a woman with high blood pressure prior to her delivery should be advised about the possible risk of preeclampsia and treatment options. If there is not enough research to predict a treatment outcome or estimate the risk of birth injuries, a doctor must also advise a patient of that fact.

If a doctor breached this duty of care and the result was patient injury, an attorney can help prepare a lawsuit that will seek to hold the doctor accountable. An attorney can also help an injured patient estimate his or her damages, as well as lost wages, pain and suffering and other costs.

Source: Huffington Post, “Pregnant Women Must Be Studied Too,” Martha Nolan, Vencenzo Berghella and Katherine L. Wisner, Oct. 21, 2014

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