Burning off the dross

Would We Consent If We Knew?

I provided this testimony on June 4th at the RI State House.

Honorable Chairman and Esteemed Members of the H.E.W. Committee,

Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Chris Arsenault, and although I am a board member of CareNet, Rhode Island, a pregnancy resource center equipped with ultrasound, I’m here as a private citizen to present testimony in support of both H-5334, (aka “A Women’s Right to Know Bill”), and H-5555, (aka “The Fetal Ultrasound Bill”).

I’m a firm believer that just as this particular review process desires to see the full scope and consequences of the proposed legislation, and takes the necessary steps to reveal that information, so too does every person desire to understand the full extent of medical consequences for life-impacting surgeries.

I’m offering the patient’s view on knowing.

As a man, I can’t get pregnant, but I had hernia surgery a few years ago that sheds light on this legislation. Though the surgeon discussed with me and said he performed two different repair methods, I selected one based on my best understanding at that time. Through a mix-up the surgeon used the other method. Yes, my hernia was repaired, but the result was a longer, more painful recovery.  Later, my own research showed the invasive procedure I initially chose was considerably more dangerous than the plug method performed on me. My post-op conversation with the surgeon clarified things, but revealed critical information I wish I knew at the initial consultation.

Each patient’s understanding of consequences for medical decisions requires timely, accurate and high quality information provided in easy to understand ways. This simplicity and clarity is crucial for patients making critical life impacting decisions. Such information should be free from any medical provider conflict of interest.  We need to know – would we consent if we knew other information?

This question raises two important considerations:

  • Both availability of information pertinent to our decision, and our understanding of it as patients, changes as we learn.
  • We obtain second opinions on critical medical conditions to verify diagnosis, affirm course of treatment and to avoid any potential provider conflict of interest.

During consultations medical professionals don’t always convey critical information for decision making in ways patients immediately grasp, because half the problem is on the patient’s end.  What are they paying attention to? What do they consider important vs what is being offered/suggested?  Learning usually leads to more, often better, questions.

As for second opinions, I later learned the method I initially chose would take almost 6-8 times longer than the 10-12 minutes needed for the plug method.  Overall, it was a more complex, expensive procedure.  And, though qualified, the surgeon’s discomfort doing that procedure, (and the risk of medical liability and death), was much greater.  As it was, he performed 3 other hernia plug surgeries scheduled immediately after mine. It appears there was a conflict of interest between what I desired and what was most valuable for the surgeon.

Abortion is much more consequential than a hernia repair. The fetus is the woman’s offspring – her child. While most everyone knows this, the average person may not know the gestational development of the child enough to fully understand medical risks, or comprehend the emotional health impacts associated with permanently denying the mothering of that child.

With abortion, there is an inherent conflict of interest between the life of the child and the motivations and purposes of the abortion provider with regard to the mother.  My discussions with many post-abortive women (and men) indicate few considered this in the midst of their decision making.

Through CareNet’s reports and personal testimonies I’ve learned of the enormous positive impacts of Limited Obstetrical Ultrasound. One angry abortion demanding young man, while viewing the ultrasound, found he already was a father. He broke down and cried.  I’ve met mothers whose first glimpse of their child’s humanity came through ultrasound imaging. I’ve seen the smiling faces of children who, had it not been for that ultrasound, and their mother’s knowing, would have been shredded into pieces.

The government’s responsibility is to protect the interests of patients where the consequences are greatest, and must fairly balance patients interests with those who provide medical care.  Our purpose in legislation is not to amend the past, but to safeguard and secure the future, not only for those who walk into clinics, but also for those yet to be born.

I urge each member of the H.E.W. Committee to visit CareNet to learn more about how it provides critical, timely and complete information on a personal basis to those facing the irreversible consequences of life-impacting decisions.

Would we consent if we had more information?

Would we consent if we really knew?

The wisest advice is : First – do no harm.

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