To consent someone, or not to consent someone… Should that be the question?

Guest post by Emma Ashworth

Consent form image

“To consent someone”.  Is this something that can be done to a person? Who is doing this action, the person seeking consent – or the person giving it? What effect on care does the phrase “I’m going to consent her” actually have? It’s just a phrase, just words, we know what it means, we know what we’re doing, we KNOW we’re going out to seek consent.

Maybe you do – but what about the next staff member who hears you say this, what do they hear? Do they hear the passiveness of the woman that is implied in the phrase “I’ll consent her”? Do they absorb the sense of an action done to her rather than the woman making decisions for herself and the woman being the only person who actually has control over the situation?

What happens when you go to consent her, and she declines? You’ve not achieved your aim, you’ve not fulfilled the expectations of the verb in the way that you used it. That might be fine for you, but for those who have heard you, for that culture that is built around the woman’s implied passiveness, every time the phrase “I’ll consent her” is used another brick is placed in that wall of expectation, the expectation of compliance.

Let’s change that language.  Imagine: Instead of going to “consent her”, you go to ask her for her decision, and if her decision is that she wishes to accept an intervention that you will undertake, you request her formal consent in writing? What happens to the dynamic of the situation when the person who is doing the consenting, the person being the active voice, is the person who controls that verb? How does just tweeking a sentence change the way that the room portrays the only person in the room who calls the shots? How does entering a room without the outcome being a foregone conclusion in your mind change how you approach that woman?

“I’m going to consent her…”

“I’m going to ask if she consents…”

Better Births in Powys – Supporting Women, Improving Care

Powys delivering better births

Ruth Weston of Aquabirths in the new Aquabirths birth pool installed in one of Powys’ birth centres.

In the heart of Wales, in one of the most rural areas of the United Kingdom, lies the beautiful county of Powys. In this stunning region the recommendations of The Birthplace Study and Better Births are being wholeheartedly implemented. In extraordinary contrast to some areas of the UK, Powys has determined to ensure that Midwife Led Units are recommended as the optimal birth place for healthy women and babies, provided they are happy to birth there – supporting women in their decisions.  20% of women give birth in a midwife led unit in this area, compared to 14% for the rest of the UK.

Powys has 6 midwife led units across the county, limiting the distance that women need to travel in labour, increasing safety for women and babies and reducing the stress on families at a time where the birthing woman needs to be able to focus on her job at hand.  In addition, Newtown, one of Powys’ towns with a birth centre, has recently celebrated  the huge achievement of obtaining funding to run sonographer services local to where women are, reducing the travelling distances for women by 3000 miles a year!

Newtown has also used its funding to add in a permanent Aquabirths birth pool, and a double bed so that new parents can snuggle up together with their baby after the birth, rather than being separated at one of the most profound times of their lives.

Well done Powys – you are an inspiration!

Guest blog by Emma Ashworth