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A question of rights

Human rights might seem an abstract concept in a hospital maternity ward, but in essence the issue is no more than basic human decency and compassion.

(Source: Sme)

WHEN the Duchess of Cambridge, wearing high heels and her radiant smile, left the hospital just a few hours after having delivered her second child, women in Slovakia once again started asking why they are kept locked up in maternity wards for days after their children are born.

Still the length of hospital stays appear a minor problem in the light of the monitoring by the human rights watchdog group Citizen, Democracy, Accountability published in late April.

Read also:Maternity wards pay little attention to human rights

The picture they paint is not far from the exhausted young woman lying on her back under cold neon lights in a shabby hospital room, alone and confused, wondering where her baby was taken and whether her husband knows he has already become a father. That is hardly what we believe to be proper in the 21st century, but in most Slovak hospitals this was the reality for years and there are places where change is still too slow in coming.

Watchdog groups now bark in this direction and describe multiple instances in which the rights of a mother-to-be, or a new mother, are violated by hospital staff. It starts with a lack of information, the obstetricians feeling no need to explain the things they are doing during labour, and it might even go as far as for the doctor to deem it unnecessary to relieve the pain of the woman when sewing her wounds.

For many women, giving birth becomes a nightmarish memory of how lonely, powerless and afraid they felt.

Human rights might seem an abstract concept in a hospital maternity ward, but in essence the issue is no more than basic human decency and compassion.

The presence or lack of such compassion is also a measure of how far we have gone in the past two decades, and whether we have already fully embraced one of the main differences between democracy and totalitarianism: that individual rights must trump those of institutions.

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