RIYADH: The confusion surrounding whether women need a male guardian’s permission to undergo vital childbirth procedures, including C-sections, was cleared on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said it had eased the way for
expectant mothers to make their own decisions over medical
Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abdulaali said patients’ rights were a
“top priority” in meeting the Kingdom’s ethical standards in health
“Female patients’ rights are handled with a great deal of attention and
effort,” he added. “Women are provided the right to give their consent
for medical care, including surgical procedures, in accordance with the
policies and procedures.”
He stressed that this is “nothing new,” but part of ongoing “efforts to
engage the community and promote positive behavior.” He said it is an
“awareness campaign” that could potentially save many lives.
Dr. Emad Sagr, chairman of the women’s health unit at the International
Medical Center in Jeddah, said the ministry’s announcement has cleared
up any confusions.
Previously, he said, there had been no firm guidelines in place to
inform medical professionals on female rights of consent without first
getting a male guardian’s permission.
This uncertainty had the potential to put pregnant women at risk, particularly if a C-section was urgently required, he added.
“Twenty years ago, we used to go by the fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law),” Sagr told Arab News.
“I’ve never waited for the consent of a male guardian, as there’s
nothing clear in Shariah law which states that a pregnant woman isn’t
allowed to have a say about her own body.”
He said the ministry’s statement also covered general surgical
interventions on women. “It’s the individual woman’s life that might be
at stake, and they should have the right to protect themselves,” Sagr
He said the only procedure that required both the husband’s and wife’s approval was “sterilization.”
In the past, some hospitals adopted their own policies surrounding
informed consent for female surgical interventions. If a male guardian
refused to give his consent, the matter was referred to an ethics
In the future, consent to treatment will only have to be gained from the
next of kin, not necessarily a male guardian, if the patient is under
the age of 18.
“Hospitals are now bound by the consent form signed by a female
patient,” said Dr. Yassir Kalakitawi, an obstetrician-gynecologist at
the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah.
“If a male guardian disapproves, he is then referred to an ethics committee to discuss the matter further.”
Dr. Firas Jameel, a GP, said whenever possible, doctors would still
always recommend that families discuss any intervention procedures in
advance with medical experts.
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