Can women in labor give informed consent to epidural analgesia?

Bioethics 33 (4):475-486 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


There are reasons to believe that decision‐making capacity (mental competence) of women in labor may be compromised in relation to giving informed consent to epidural analgesia. Not only severe labor pain, but also stress, anxiety, and premedication of analgesics such as opioids, may influence women’s decisional capacity. Decision‐making capacity is a complex construct involving cognitive and emotional components which cannot be reduced to ‘understanding’ alone. A systematic literature search identified a total of 20 empirical studies focused on women’s decision‐making about epidural analgesia for labor pain. Our review of these studies suggests that empirical evidence to date is insufficient to determine whether women undergoing labor are capable of consenting to epidural analgesia. Given such uncertainties, sufficient information about pain management should be provided as part of prenatal education and the consent process must be carefully conducted to enhance women’s autonomy. To fill in the significant gap in clinical knowledge about laboring women’s decision‐making capacity, well‐designed prospective and retrospective studies may be required.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,122

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Childbirth Is Not an Emergency: Informed Consent in Labor and Delivery.Allison B. Wolf & Sonya Charles - 2018 - International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 11 (1):23-43.
The process of informed consent for urgent abdominal surgery.R. Kay - 2001 - Journal of Medical Ethics 27 (3):157-161.
Informed consent: a primer for clinical practice.Deborah Bowman - 2012 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by John Spicer & Rehana Iqbal.
Informed consent and routinisation.Thomas Ploug & Soren Holm - 2013 - Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (4):214-218.
Some limits of informed consent.O. O'Neill - 2003 - Journal of Medical Ethics 29 (1):4-7.
Consent for Data on Consent.Mollie Gerver - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4):799-816.
Autonomy, consent and the law.Sheila McLean - 2010 - New York, N.Y.: Routledge-Cavendish.


Added to PP

33 (#447,419)

6 months
7 (#285,926)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Louis C. Charland
PhD: University of Western Ontario

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references