By Muna Al-Fuzai
I have become convinced that we in Kuwait are witnessing a sharp decline in the rights of women. Unfortunately, as the world moves forward, we are regrettably and shamefully moving backwards. The health guardianship of minor or incompetent patients has caused social and human problems, as questions arise in light of preventing the mother from signing consent forms to approve surgical intervention for her children. This right is limited exclusively to the father, then the grandfather, sons and brothers.
As a citizen, wife, and mother, I raise a warning flag about the danger of continuing this situation that may threaten the lives of young children and cause great suffering to the mother, who finds herself unable to do anything when her children need even the most basic surgical procedures. We are in 2020, people, and this issue is serious as any of us can fall victim to such a situation.
While most opinions concur on the importance of “informed consent” for surgical intervention or any medical procedure that is required, however no country prevents the mother from signing the form, as is the case in Kuwait, which makes it practical to give permission to the doctor for any necessary surgical intervention for her children, in the event of her husband’s absence for any reason.
However, the problem is more complicated in the case of a foster mother or divorcee who could be at odds with her ex-husband. The right to custody also does not entitle her to sign a consent form to agree to the surgical operation on her child – rather, she must obtain the consent of the guardian or a court ruling, and here the question arises:
Can the child be able to endure extreme pain, for example, until the mother goes to the department of legal affairs and investigations at the ministry of health and brings proof that the father is not present (death certificate, health custody, letter from the prison or authorization if the father is outside the country) to get a “no objection” for surgical intervention?! How much time would this take? Days or more in case of public holidays, and these are not few here.
Ultimately, the crisis is not limited to the mother and children, but extends also to the medical staff that want to legally protect themselves, and thus turns into a legal problem. I believe that this issue requires all concerned parties to sit together to put in place a comprehensive framework that is free of gaps.
Recently, I read an article by a woman about her friend’s husband. She said she saw her friend crying one day after she rushed her ill husband to the hospital. He was in urgent need for an operation, but it was not possible for her to sign his papers, because at that time her son and uncles were outside the country. She wondered who was behind this unjust decision to prevent her or other women to sign such papers for their beloved ones.
Therefore, others and I were happy that MP Youssef Al-Fadalah presented a proposal to grant women this mandate in order to eliminate discrimination in such humanitarian situations. But our joy was short-lived, as the health committee rejected the proposal on the justification that it has no basis in law or humanity. Sadly, unjust decisions against women here are usually covered with religion or legal and procedural excuses to create fear and hesitation against the rights of women.
With this article, I hope National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem – who is known for being supportive of women – stands by his Kuwaiti sisters on this humanitarian issue. I also wish the women ministers and the female deputy in the National Assembly have a clear and speedy stance on this issue. I also hope that women will not elect those who stand against their rights, so that people realize the impact of women and their strength in defending their rights.