Watching an episode of “Downton Abbey” in which Lady Sybil dies from complications following childbirth, made me think how far we have come in all matters relating to women having babies. I was appalled at how the life and death decisions in Lady Sybil’s case were made by men (her father and her father’s chosen specialist, who then argued with the family GP -another man- over what to do when things started to go wrong.) “That would never happen now” I said to my Mum watching next to me. Aside from greater advances in technology which would likely have detected Lady Sybil’s condition (eclampsia) sooner, matters wouldn’t be left to her father and doctor to decide (not even her husband was allowed much of a say!) Or would things really be so different when it came to the crunch? Would two differing medical opinions ultimately prove fatal for the patient because neither side wanted to back down or “lose face?” Would the fear of costly litigation have any influence on how matters were handled and recorded or even explained subsequently? Ever the optimist, I would hope that the patient or his/her advocate would not be brushed aside so easily but even as I type the sentence, my inner voice tells me that when it comes to medical matters it is all too easy to be “blinded by science” when you assume that “doctor knows best.” Hard to argue with that one. Lady Sybil certainly couldn’t and now never will.
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