New Jersey obstetrician-gynecologist wins informed consent case

The doctor was not negligent for failing to explain the psychological risks of terminating a pregnancy.

By Damon Adams — Posted Jan. 5, 2004

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In a lawsuit involving informed consent for an abortion procedure, a New Jersey judge has ruled that a pregnant woman's physician was not required to express a moral, philosophical or religious judgment that went beyond medical information before gaining that consent.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Amy Chambers said that Sheldon C. Turkish, MD, a Perth Amboy, N.J., obstetrician-gynecologist, was not required to make a statement to patient Rose Acuna that the fetus or embryo is a living being. The judge ruled that Dr. Turkish was not negligent.

"When plaintiff insists that the doctor should have told her that she would be terminating the life of a living human being, she is asking for more than impartial medical information," Chambers wrote in her decision.

Acuna's attorney has filed a motion for reconsideration in Chambers' court. "The law requires the doctor to explain the procedure, to explain the risks," said Harold J. Cassidy of Holmdel, N.J. "She is entitled to be told of a risk of significant psychological harm that could be lasting."

Dr. Turkish's attorney, John Jackson, would not comment.

After a sonogram confirmed that Acuna's pregnancy was in the first trimester, Dr. Turkish and Acuna discussed terminating the pregnancy.

Acuna returned a few days later to have the procedure done.

Several years after the surgery, Acuna sued the doctor, claiming he did not get her informed consent because he failed to advise her that she had a living human being inside her, court records show.

Dr. Turkish's defense was that the question of when life begins is not a medical fact, but a question of philosophy, theology or morality, court records show.

In her decision in November, Chambers said Acuna was asking her doctor to adhere to the viewpoint that, from conception, an embryo or fetus is equivalent to "a person born and alive." She said such a statement was a value judgment, not a medical fact.

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