This paper is about the clinical principle of informed choice—the hallmark feature of the midwifery model of care in Ontario, Canada. Drawing on ethnographic history interviews with midwives, I trace the origins of the idea of informed choice to its roots in the social movement of midwifery in North America in the late 1960s and 1970s. At that time informed choice was not the distinctive feature of midwifery but was deeply embedded what I call midwifery’s feminist experiment in care. But as midwifery in Ontario transitioned from a social movement to a full profession within the formal health care system, informed choice was strategically foregrounded in order to make the midwifery model of care legible and acceptable to a skeptical medical profession, conservative law makers, and a mainstream clientele. As mainstream biomedicine now takes up the rhetoric of patient empowerment and informed choice, this paper is at once a nuanced history of the making of the concept and also a critique of the ascendant ‘regime of choice’ in contemporary health care, inspired by the reflections of the midwives in my study for whom choice is impossible without care.
"Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry" – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 15, 2017
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