This article contains posts and extracts from the UK Midwives and Consumers email list, a discussion group for people interested in midwifery in the UK. Open to midwives, students, mothers, and anyone interested in improving maternity services in UK. Posts in these archives express the views of the individual authors, and not those of the Association of Radical Midwives. Unless otherwise stated, the comments are personal experiences rather than evidence-based research.

Forced Caesareans

When caesarean sections are performed without the mother’s consent, by the order of a court or otherwise.

I know of somebody being sectioned twice in one day – CS and under the mental health act (she was a midwife!)

I am concerned that a midwife should have been sectioned, how long ago? Has she sued? I presume the action was not justified and she was as sane as the rest of us. In which case I would suggest she contacts AIMS asap.

Ms S’s (forced caesarean) case was also supported by AIMS. AIMS Journal Vol 9 No1, Spring 1997 has details of the Court of Appeal ruling (Ms S won the Appeal) and the AIMS Journal Vol 8 No 3, Autumn 1996 has details of other cases of women forced to have caesarean sections against their wishes.

What has been achieved by these cases is a termination of the secrecy and the way in which obstetricians and lawyers conspired to rush into court and ask for a court order without any input from the mother. Indeed, in some cases the mothers had no idea the obstetricians were seeking a court order.

Ms S won her case on Appeal. The judges were not impressed by the activities of St George’s Hospital …

..Ms S made it absolutely clear that she was not willing to have a caesarean section and when the argument was used that she lay back and no longer protested (i.e. agreed) she demolished their argument by saying that it was absolutely clear that they were not going to listen to what she was repeatedly saying, so she gave up and also made it clear that she would not co-operate.

She was awarded £45,000 in damages last year. More information about her case is highlighted in the AIMS Journal Vol 8 No 3, Autumn 1996 and AIMS Journal, Vol 7 No 3, Autumn 1995. Available from Publications Secretary, 2 Bacon lane, Hayling Island, Hants, PO11 ODN. Price £3.00 each plus 75p P & P. (order form on the AIMS website at

Beverley Lawrence Beech

This article in the Electronic Telegraph reports that a mum was awarded £7,000 compensation for an unauthorised caesarean. Doesn’t sound much, does it? But she did go on to have two home VBACs afterwards – must be very determined indeed to manage that and fight the case.

Electronic Telegraph, Sunday 1 June 1997, Issue 737
Payout for woman who was forced to have a caesarean
By Jo Knowsley and Tim Reid

The article says that “The payment by North Middlesex Hospital, for “assault against the person and medical negligence”, to Caroline Spear, 33, is believed to be the first of its kind because neither she nor the baby was physically injured.

If unwanted major abdominal surgery doesn’t constitute physical injury, what does??


Court-Ordered Caesareans in the UK by Sheila Kitzinger, published in BIRTH – Issues in Perinatal Care, September 1998 Vol. 25.3

Background info, on the case of Ms S:

BMJ 1998;316:571 ( 21 February )
Judge misled over call for caesarean operation
Clare Dyer, legal correspondent

Report of appeal court ruling:

BMJ 1998;316:1477 ( 16 May )
Trusts face damages after forcing women to have caesareans
Clare Dyer, legal correspondent, BMJ

BMJ 1997;314:993 (5 April)
Appeal court rules against compulsory caesarean sections
Clare Dyer, legal correspondent, BMJ
This article refers to a mother whose baby was in a footling breech position. The mother had a needle phobia and so did not want a caesarean.
“The judges agreed that MB was incapable of making a decision because the phobia caused a temporary “impairment of her mental function which disabled her.”” 
“The courts cannot authorise doctors to perform caesarean sections or other obstetric interventions on mentally competent women against their will, the Court of Appeal in London ruled last week, in a landmark judgment on the rights of pregnant women to refuse treatmen”

Report of two cases in which a judge granted orders for forced caesareans on women who wanted VBACs (before the landmark case of Ms S clarified the law):
Caesareans without consent authorised 
BMJ 1996;313:705 (21 September)
“In both cases the judge concluded that the pain and emotional stress of labour had prevented the women from weighing up all the considerations and making a choice–one of the three tests of competence laid down in an earlier case.”

RCOG and American Medical Association condemn forced caesareans:
BMJ 1994;308:224 (22 January)
Colleges say no to forced caesarean sections

BMJ 1997;314:1143 (19 April)
Editorial: Women’s autonomy in childbirth

The forced caesarean cases are also discussed in ‘Can a mother be forced to attend hospital?‘, on the Home Birth Reference Site.

BMJ (British Medical Journal) Collection on Informed Consent:

AH updated 16 October 2000


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