Support Bulgarian women’s right to an informed consent

Is your consent an informed one?

Sofia, Bulgaria

Under this slogan on November 25, women in Bulgaria, will start distributing informational brochures in front of two of the biggest maternity wards in the country in Sofia and in Varna. The goal of the campaign is to educate women on their right of informed consent before any medical procedures are performed on their bodies. We will do that by distributing brochures that outline the obligations of the Republic of Bulgaria according to international and domestic legal standards. Brochures will be distributed in front of local maternity wards, in medical clinics, birth/parent education classes and to women in general. As part of our campaign we have sent letters to Bulgarian hospitals asking them to put a copy of their Informed Consent form on their website and to make it available to women during pre-natal visits. We will also send a letter to the Ministry of Health to lobby for implementation of the legal standards regarding informed consent in practice.

Currently, the document entitled Informed Consent is used as a tool of coercion and intimidation in Bulgarian maternity wards. It does not contain any meaningful information about possible risks or side effects, or offer alternatives, but simply enumerates a list of the procedures that will be performed. Women are usually presented with the document during active labor and they don’t have time to either read it carefully or to understand its significance. There are severe repercussions if the woman refuses to sign the document. Usually the staff becomes abusive and uses threats and intimidation until the woman succumbs and signs. Sometimes the staff retaliates by using more invasive procedures or withholding anesthesia during stitching. This is clearly in violation of all international legal treaties to which Bulgaria is a signatory and even to domestic legislation. We feel it is very important for women to know what their rights are in childbirth and to receive all necessary information to make an informed decision regarding their care and health.

Institutional violence against women during childbirth is a serious problem in Bulgarian hospitals. Women endure both physical and psychological abuse. Procedures are performed as a matter of routine, without regard to the mother’s or baby’s health needs, and often against the mother’s wishes. Doctors’ desire for predictable work schedules and higher payments overrule medical necessity, leading to a Cesarean birth rate close to 40% of all births. Even worse, all these procedures are accompanied by verbal abuse and the patronizing attitude of the staff. Women are shouted at by anyone on the staff, from nurses and doctors, to custodial staff and orderlies. Getting slapped for not following the directions of the staff is not unheard of.

This event is organized by Estestveno (www.estestveno.com), an NGO that advocates for active birth, breastfeeding and parenting in harmony with nature, and Rodilnitza (www.rodilnitza.com), an organization advocating for the rights of women in pregnancy and childbirth.
The printing and distribution of brochures is made possible with the help of the Network of East-West Women (www.neww.eu).

Support us

Please support our efforts to bring this issue to the forefront and require action from the Government to ensure that women’s rights are respected.

What you can do:

Send a letter of support to us and we will hand it in with the collected signatures from the Bulgarian public – info@rodilnitza.com

and/or

Send your letter of support direct to the authorities:

Health Minister Dr.Stephan Konstantinov
5, Sveta Nedelja pl.
1000 Sofia
Bulgaria
minister@mh.government.bg

Director of the National Health Insurance Fund Dr.Neli Nesheva
1, Krichim Str.,
1407 Sofia
Bulgaria
jvatkova@nhif.bg

Thank you!

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To assist you, we have prepared a sample letter, which you are free to use and amend as required.

International letter of support
in pdf format
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International letter of support
for Word

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