St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S [1999]

The legacy of St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S is the clear statement that a pregnant woman is not be treated as incapable of making a decision simply because she chooses something that many would judge to be misguided, or even immoral. It insists that we are vigilant in ensuring that women are not silenced or side-lined within their own experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.

Annapurna Waughray, Kay Lalor and Anne Morris

Colour photo of a newborn baby in hospital yawningAlthough the case of St George’s Health Care NHS Trust v S reiterates general principles of patient autonomy and self-determination, it is of special significance for women because of its unequivocal affirmation that a competent pregnant woman can refuse medical treatment even if that refusal may result in harm to her or the foetus. It also establishes that mental health legislation cannot be used to prevent a competent pregnant woman from exercising this right.

The full version of this landmark is written by Annapurna Waughray, Kay Lalor and Anne Morris.


Learn More

The Independent, ‘Law Report: 12 May 1998; Pregnant Woman was Entitled to Refuse Caesarian’