New Zealand Health Commissioner Confirms Right of Women Considering Abortion to View Fetal Scan

New Zealand Health Commissioner Ron Paterson has confirmed that women considering an abortion must be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound scan of the baby in their womb if they so choose.

The decision of the Commissioner was made in response to a complaint made by New Zealand Right to Life against the Waikato District Health Board (WDHB). The complaint concerned the protocol followed by the Board, which precluded an offer being made to a woman considering an abortion when undergoing an ultrasound scan to view the scan of her baby. WDHB chief executive Craig Climo said it was an “infringement of the patient’s rights” to offer it, according to a Dominion Post report.

The Commissioner in his decision told New Zealand Right to Life, “I have carefully considered the issue you have raised. Clearly, a woman undergoing an ultrasound scan has the right to view her scan. As you have recognised, she also has the right to decide not to view the scan. In order to exercise this choice, a woman will know that she is able to view the scan.

“I have written to Waikato DHB reminding them of Right 6 of the Code, which states that consumers have the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer’s circumstances, would expect to receive. In my view, this would generally include the information that the woman may view the scan should she wish.”

New Zealand Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said offering women the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan would reduce abortions by meeting the legal requirements of the Code of Health Rights to be fully informed and to give an informed consent.

According to the Statistics New Zealand, the general abortion rate in 2007 was 20.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, up from 19.6 per 1,000 in 2006, with more than one in five known pregnancies in New Zealand ending in abortion.

The letter from Commissioner Paterson to WDHB chief executive Craig Climo said it was a woman’s choice whether or not to view the scan.

“She needs the information that she has the ability to view the scan to make this choice,” he wrote. “Most pregnant women undergoing an ultrasound scan would expect to be told that they can see the scan image if they wish to. There is nothing novel about confirming that the law entitles them to do so.”

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