The Legacy of Midwifery and the Women’s Health Movement in Contemporary Discourses of Patient Choice and Empowerment

Margaret E. MacDonald, PhD.

This commentary traces the roots of the notion of patient empowerment and patient-centred care to the radical beginnings of the women’s health movement and the feminist critiques of medicalized childbirth. I pay particular attention to the emergence of the concept of informed choice in community midwifery as one of the women’s health movement’s key strategies to combine medical science with women’s own experience to effect the empowerment of women in health care. I also reflect on the limitations of the notions of empowerment and choice as they have been taken up by mainstream health institutions and the health care marketplace-often without acknowledging the contributions of midwifery and the women’s health movement-noting the diminished promise and potentially problematic effects of taking these notions out of their political contexts.

women’s health, midwifery, informed consent, patient empowerment

This article has been peer reviewed.


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