Doctors Let Woman Die to Protect Fetus

A Polish woman named Edyta died because doctors refused to provide medical care. Each physician she approached worried that treating her colon condition could lead to miscarriage or abortion. Eventually her disease worsened until she miscarried, anyway, not long before her death.

Recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe failed to pass a resolution meant to keep incidents like this from happening. Unfortunate, because if she had lived in Italy, Hungary, or Croatia she could have expected the same outcome. Doctors in any of these countries can refuse medical care on moral grounds.

Apparently, letting a person die is not a part of their moral compass. At least not when a fetus is involved.

Meanwhile, the Vatican censored their top bioethics official because he defended doctors who aborted the twin fetuses of a nine-year-old child who was raped by her stepfather. He felt that saving the girl’s life called for mercy. The Vatican thought otherwise.

This is what happens when fetal rights come before human rights. Are a fetus and a human being really equivalent?

My brother-in-law was completely against abortion until his wife’s life was threatened by her pregnancy. When the doctors told him he may have to choose between his wife and his unborn baby he knew he would choose his wife. He talked about how his wife was someone who he loved, who he had strong connections to. Losing her would be too great an emotional loss. And, she is an actual human being.

Meanwhile, many think that embryos and humans are equivalent, and protest stem cell research. Yet if a research center caught fire and you had to choose between saving a one-year-old child or a vat of stem cells, which would you choose – thousands of “lives” or one child?

I wonder if doctors and governments would prioritize a fetus or an embryo over a human being if men were the ones who had babies.

The doctors’ refusals remind me of the Arab guards who forced girls back into a burning building to save themselves from seeing women who weren’t properly covered. In each case women were forced to die to preserve men’s moral sensibilities.

Whatever that means.

Georgia Platts

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 25, 2010, in feminism, gender, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I am completely appalled at the doctors refusal. This woman comes to them begging for help and yet they reserve the right to refuse care? And for what so called “reasons”? The woman was carrying a fetus. And it is against their “moral code” to kill a human being. Though I understand that scientifically speaking a fetus is ready to be born, and has hands, feet, and a little nose and eyes. When you think about it in that sense than yes I understand how you could say it is a human life. However is it really fair to say that this woman should die, because she is pregnant. Yes it is unfortunate to know that helping her could cause a miscarriage. But saving her life, a life that she has lived, and grown through. A life that has been full, a life that should be allowed to live on. How can you deny her that? The child has not had the opportunity to live a life. But to save neither, versus being able to save the mother at the very least, that is a decision i would be willing to make. I would not be able to live with myself. I have morals, yes, but i think the doctors and I live by very different moral compasses.

    • Fetuses are not always able to surive outside the womb. Tests for viability can be done to determine that.

      Allowing pregnant women and young girls to die feels more traumatic to most people. At their loss, all of the love and connection you have for that perosn is torn away. The actual woman also understands what’s happening to her, facing death, and the complete lack of care directed at her. That also adds to her trauma.

      • What strikes me about these types of decisions is that by not saving the mother they are guaranteeing the death of the baby whose life they insist is of paramount importance and the very reason they refuse medical care to its mother. Circular reasoning at best. Don’t people listen to themselves think?

      • Makes you wonder what their real goal is. Life? Or controlling women’s bodies?

  2. A fetus is not a human being. Anyone who feels that a fetus and human being are the same needs to retake high bio. A fetus could just as easily be seen as a parasite; it receives all it nutrients and vital life functions from its mother, without her the fetus CANNOT survive. This doctor is a fool, if he was truely in the interest of preserving life he would have saved the women’s life. Not to be cruel but a fetus can be replaced, remade if that makes you feel better about it. Abortion is a tough decision but when the mothers life is in jeopardy it should not be questioned.
    As for the Vatican’s decision to censor their own official that should come as no surprise. In my personal opinion Christianity, and modern religion as whole, is a sexist institution that takes any and all opportunities to assert male dominance even if that means general moral notions have to be sacrificed; such as favoring the life of an UNBORN fetus over a BORN women. Unborn is just another way of saying not alive, doctors need to favor life over potential life.

  3. Allowing that mother to die – didn’t the fetus die also? Also-from one extrme to the other :
    China forces woman into abortion at EIGHT months for breaching one-child policy n eight-months pregnant woman was dragged from her home and forced to have an abortion because she had broken China’s one-child-per-family law.

    Twelve government officials entered Xiao Aiying’s house where they hit and kicked her in the stomach, before taking her kicking and screaming to hospital.

    There, the 36-year-old was restrained as doctors injected her with a drug to kill the unborn baby.

    Xiao Aiying allowed cameras to film her in the hospital. The bruise on her arm is from the alleged beating she received before offficials injected her baby. She may require surgery to remove pieces of placenta still in her uterus

    Her husband Luo Yanquan, a construction worker, yesterday described the moment officials burst into his family home.

    ‘They held her hands behind her back and pushed her head against the wall and kicked her in the stomach,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if they were trying to give her a miscarriage.

    ‘Our ten-year-old daughter has been excited about having a little brother or sister but I don’t know how I can explain to her what has happened.’

    Construction worker Luo Yanquan told Al Jazeera how excited his ten-year-old daughter was for her new sibling, only to have the baby lethally injected when his wife was eight months pregnant

    He recalled how a month before the child was due to be born officials told the couple they weren’t allowed to have another baby because they already have a daughter.

    His wife, who was filmed in hospital with large bruises on her arms and her dead child still inside her, said: ‘I have had this baby, feeling it moving around and around my belly. Can you imagine how I feel now.’

    Her harrowing experience in Siming, near the city of Xiamen, south-west China, on October 10, comes a month after the government in Beijing said there would be no relaxation in strict family planning laws.

    Most Chinese families are allowed only one child to reduce the 1.3 billion-plus population and cut unsustainable demand on resources.

    The policy leads to an estimated 13 million abortions every year, with many of those ordered by local authorities. Infanticide is also widespread in many rural areas.

    Those who violate the one child law can be fined up to £25,000.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1322601/China-forces-woman-abortion-EIGHT-months-breaching-child-policy.html

  4. After reading this blog post, I was utterly disgusted with the lack of common sense that is shown in several places around the world. Even the so-called developed nations do not have “developed people” who can think rationally and decide what is priority.

    I am of the opinion that a living human being is more important than an unborn child or a fetus. The woman should have the right to decide at any point during her pregnancy on whether she wants to continue with the pregnancy.

    And in cases where the life of a woman is in danger, it is a no-brainer that the woman who is currently alive should be prioritized over the unborn child (fetus) as the woman can potentially have another child in future, but if the child is born to a dead mother, another mother cannot be created for that child.

    Also, the paragraph mentioning the Arab guards is very disturbing as one should first and foremost think of humanity above all religions and moral sensibilities.

    I pray to God that he bestows common sense to all individuals across the world so people can think rationally and protect the rights of women in such situations.

    – Ruta

  5. This is really disturbing. I wonder how many doctors refused to treat her. I don’t think doctors were being “morally conscious,” but I think they refused to treat her just so that they don’t have to deal with responsibilities if the fetus dies. Also, you can’t be so sure if those doctors are men. Also, I don’t oppose abortion at all, but I feel like your statement (“she is an actual human being”) could be controversial. Is fetus not an actual human being?

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Just for clarity, I never assumed the doctors were men. Women learn sexism, too. (Both women and men learn that the world, as it is, is natural and normal, and proceed accordingly.)

      re: “I think they refused to treat her just so that they don’t have to deal with responsibilities if the fetus dies.”

      Ok, but what about their responsibility if the woman dies?

      Yes, questioning whether a fetus is a human being is contraversial. There’s been a lot of controversy on the topic. But do you think the nine-year-old’s life should have been sacrificed for the fetus? Or the mother with the colon disease? Or do you think the husband should have sacrificed his wife to protect their fetus? Just wondering.

  6. After reading this article it is very sad, letting a pregnant woman die because of a fetus. But did the doctors realize that letting that pregnant woman die also made the fetus die as well. I mean come on isn’t it a doctors job to save someone’s life, not taking it away? A fetus is unborn, they are creating to be human but they haven’t seen the world yet. The mother, she has lived and has seen the world. She and the unborn baby both have a right to live, but if you had to choose one it should be the mother.

  7. Love your blogs Georgia. I have read many just now but this one, this one sits in my craw wrong. I read this story on Change.org a bit back in the year. I wholeheartedly agree with Ted. (and I’m glad to see a man with this point of view) I was unaware of the 9 year old. But…. that just reinforces my belief and stance that abortion should remain legal. Despite individual states doing everything that they can to shame a woman from getting one. A fetus is a parasite. Period. And until it can draw it’s own breath……. it is not alive. However, the mother IS and everything should be done to save her life. I believe that the doctors who refused to help her were FAR more concerned about their livelihoods than her life.

    I also agree with Ted for making the comment “Christianity, and modern religion as whole, is a sexist institution that takes any and all opportunities to assert male dominance” I have lived in the Mid-West Bible Belt for most of my life. Fortunately I have also lived in areas that think beyond some mid-evil book and look at the bigger picture when making a choice…or a law. Here, women are not put on a pedestal. HERE they are yoked to the tractor and do as they are told, ALLOWING men with agendas control them. All in the name of following “The Good Book”

    So again, great blog….sorry to get so preachy ;) It is good for the soul to see people speak out against injustice. I think women’s rights have a long way to go.

  8. It’s amazing how caught up people become in saving a fetus that they forget that are essentially killing another human being by not helping them with medical treatment. I am all for womens choice, I couldn’t do it, but I know there are people who need to . For many reasons, whether that be rape, poverty, health conditions and so on. Its not our place to decide. Choosing to save a fetus over their mother is a little to extreme. It’s obvious that women who have chosen to keep the baby and once faced with medical conditions that are life threatening don’t decide to terminate the baby because they have changed their minds but because their life depends on it. So is it ok to save a fetus and kill the mother when that mother has a husband/significant other and 4 other children at home who depend on her for survival? I think not. I know this is a hard decision to make and any women would feel guilty for having to make this decision. We shouldn’t end their life for a fetus who hasn’t even started theirs yet.

  9. Guys it has gotten much worse.
    I recently visited a friend in Oklahoma. She told me that she recently lobbied to stop a bill. This bill made it LEGAL for a member of medical staff to LIE to you about the health of YOUR fetus, if they felt you would choose to abort it due to it’s ill health, not be “whole” or be of lower mental condition. ANY medical person. A tech doing a sonogram does not have to tell the doctor what they found if they feel the doctor is pro-choice and the information may lead that doctor to suggest to you that abortion should be contemplated. Your own doctor can choose not to tell you test results if they think that you are pro-choice and may abort a fetus. The nurse can choose to not tell your doctor. EVERYBODY in the medical office can make the CHOICE not to tell a pregnant mother that she is carrying a fetus that will not have a good quality of life, leaving the mother without her choice protected by law. IT PASSED!
    We are on a very slippery slope here. While they are currently not going after the right itself they are chipping away at our ability to make the choice.

  10. I believe morally any type of killing and murdering is wrong, but when a women or child asks for an abortion for their health sake then the priveleage should be given to them. We need to look at the bigger picture for example the women with the colon disease. If a doctor agreed to treat her disease and killing the fetus, should would still be alive. However they refused to give her treatment and not only did the fetus die but she also passed away. I believe when the health of a women or anyone for a fact is in danger they should have the right of picking what to do with a fetus or something they are carrying in themselves. Someone you know and love your whole life, is more important then a growing fetus but that does not make abortion right. I view that abortion should only be used when needed or used to increase health and should not be used for careless people who did not mean to get “knocked up.”

  11. This is horrible. It is such a heated subject. I believe in life of course. I believe that a woman has the right to decide whether or not she wants to have an abortion regardless of how she got to that point. It is appalling that any doctor, no matter what country would refuse medical care to a living, breathing person to save an unborn fetus. To think that someone would argue that a child who is pregnant from rape shouldn’t have an abortion is disgusting. The question is when does a fetus become a ‘feeling’ human being? My opinion is that any abortion should be done before the fetus s able to feel any pain.

  12. I have always wondered why womens lives were less important than the fetus. I had never thought that the abortion issue could be about controlling women lives. This makes sense of some of the crazyness of this issue. It now makes sense about why the religious right do not want birth control for women. I have only seen the religious right’s point of view on this issue. To see that this issue may be part of a larger issue about the control of women is kind for new for me.

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