The ethical obligations of an obstetrician to a patient who requests a cesarean delivery without maternal or fetal indication differ depending on whether the request is made before or during labor. Informed consent is an essential dimension of respecting patient autonomy, and the process of informed consent should be extensive for a cesarean delivery in the absence of maternal or fetal indications during active labor. For this reason, physicians should rarely grant a request for cesarean delivery made during active labor. Although physicians may think that declining a request for cesarean delivery is a violation of patient autonomy, they should also be concerned about the violation of patient autonomy that results if they are unable to adequately complete the process of informed consent during labor.
Maternal requests for cesarean delivery without maternal or fetal indication during active labor should, in most cases, be declined.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Alden March Bioethics Institute, Albany Medical College, Albany, and the Philosophy Department, Siena College, Loudonville, New York.
Corresponding author: Paul Burcher, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Alden March Bioethics Institute, Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208; e-mail: BurcheP@amc.edu.
Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.