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Information about right to view ultrasound scans prior to abortion (09HDC00842)

Download Information about right to view ultrasound scans prior to abortion (09HDC00842) (PDF 42Kb)

(09HDC00842, 22 April 2009)

In February 2009 the Commissioner received a complaint from Right to Life New Zealand Inc ("Right to Life") about Waikato District Health Board's refusal to offer women considering an abortion an opportunity to view their ultrasound scan. Right to Life advised that they had written to 13 district health boards seeking information on the protocols followed in relation to ultrasound scans taken for women considering an abortion. Waikato DHB had stated that to offer a woman an opportunity to view her scan would be an infringement of the patient's rights under the Code.

Waikato DHB subsequently explained that, prior to an abortion, the routine ultrasound scan is often performed by the referring provider in the primary setting. However, if it is performed at Waikato DHB, a woman is supported in whichever decision she makes in relation to viewing the scan.

The Commissioner reminded Waikato DHB of Right 6 of the Code, which states that consumers have the right to the information that a reasonable consumer, in that consumer's circumstances, would expect to receive. In most circumstances, a reasonable consumer would expect to be told that she could view an ultrasound scan performed prior to an abortion, if she wished to.

The Commissioner also noted that, in his view, while most pregnant women undergoing an ultrasound scan would expect to be told that they can see the scan image if they wish to, it all depends on the circumstances. In some cases it would be distressing and inappropriate to ask a woman if she wants to see her scan. It is also important to treat patients with respect and sensitivity, in accordance with Right 1 of the Code.

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