Contraception, pregnancy and childbirth
in Medicine, patients and the law (sixth edition)
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In the 2015 Supreme Court decision, Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board, Lady Hale said: ‘Gone are the days when it was thought that, on becoming pregnant, a woman lost, not only her capacity, but also her right to act as a genuinely autonomous human being.’ This chapter charts the development of reproductive autonomy and the legal response. We start by looking at patient rights to contraception before examining cases of therapeutic and non-therapeutic sterilisation. We consider the legal response to injury sustained before birth, the Congenital Disabilities (Civil Liability) Act 1976 and consider the validity of claims for wrongful birth and life. Moving on to birth, we ask how far the woman retains control of her labour.

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