Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doctor who?

In today's SMH Heckler we have yet another medical professional (well, he claims to be a doctor, but doesn't give his area of specialisation) stating that hospital birth is safer than homebirth. He states this without equivocation, despite the fact that there are many studies that have shown that, in planned homebirths for healthy mothers and babies, homebirth is at least as safe as hospital birth. Not to mention that those who choose it almost always report that it's a much more pleasant experience than hospital birth.

Contrary to what Doctor Borton believes, just because I support homebirth as a choice doesn't mean that I believe the "Natural is Good" canard.* I do believe, however, in leaving well alone. Medicalising a normal (not "natural") bodily function such as birth is like using plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons: it's a choice, it's not compulsory (but when it's necessary, it's wonderful).

Years ago I saw a dermatologist about a rash that had been appearing off and on at the back of my knees. The doctor labelled it shaving rash, and when I tried to explain that it had first appeared in winter, when I hadn't shaved my legs for several months, she snapped, "I'm the doctor!" I sought a second opinion from a doctor without a god complex, who correctly diagnosed the rash, which had by then appeared on the inside of my forearms as well.

It's that kind of "I'm the doctor, you have to do what I say" attitude, as displayed by Doctor Borton, that makes me want to avoid the whole breed as much as possible. I agree with him on one point: medical science has made birth safer. It's easy to identify most health problems and potential delivery problems during the pregnancy, meaning that the correct choices can be made for delivery and perinatal care. But medical science has not made birth completely safe--babies and mothers die in hospitals too--so why insist that healthy people go there for an uncomplicated delivery?

* I like Tim Minchin's line: Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? Medicine.

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