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Obstetric violence criminalised in Mexico: a comparative analysis of hospital complaints filed with the Medical Arbitration Commission
  1. Omar Calvo Aguilar1,
  2. Marta Torres Falcón2,
  3. Rosario Valdez Santiago
  1. 1 Dr. Aurelio Valdivieso General Hospital, Oaxaca Health Services, Oaxaca, Mexico
  2. 2 Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Azcapotzalco, Azcapotzalco, Mexico
  1. Correspondence to Professor-researcher Rosario Valdez Santiago, CISS, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Morelos, 62100 Cuernavaca, Mexico; rosario.valdez{at}


Introduction Disrespect and abuse during childbirth have been reported by numerous countries around the world. One of their principal manifestations is the performance of invasive or surgical procedures without the informed consent of women. Non-dignified treatment is the second most common form of this conduct. Five Mexican states have classified obstetric violence as a crime: Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Guerrero, the State of Mexico and Veracruz. The others have not yet done so although it is provided for in their civil and administrative regulations.

Objective To analyse whether criminalising obstetric violence has been conducive to the recognition and observance of the reproductive rights of women, based on the records of poor health care complaints filed by women with the Medical Arbitration Commissions (CAMs by their Spanish initials) in two Mexican states.

Materials and methods We conducted an observational qualitative study using a phenomenological approach. Analysis included two states with similar partner demographic and maternal health indicators but different legal classifications of obstetric violence: the Chiapas has criminalized this form of violence while Oaxaca has not. We reviewed the records of obstetric care complaints filed with CAMs in both states from 2011 to 2015, all of them concluded and including full information.

Results Differences were observed regarding the contents of complaints, specifically in the categories of abuse, discrimination and neglect during childbirth. The narratives in the other complaint categories were similar between states.

Conclusion After analysing the records of malpractice complaints in Chiapas and Oaxaca, we conclude that the differentiated legal status of obstetric violence has not influenced recognition or observance of the reproductive rights of women. Criminalising obstetric violence has not improved care provided by health personnel.

  • reproductive health politics
  • disrespect and abuse
  • obstetric violence

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  • Contributors OC conceived the idea of the study, performed the analyses and participated in the drafting of the manuscript. MTF analysed the legal and regulatory framework of obstetric violence in Mexico, and reviewed and copy-edited the manuscript. RVS contributed to the design of the study and participated in the drafting of the final manuscript.

  • Funding Our study was financed by the Medical Arbitration Commission (CAM by its Spanish initials) in the State of Oaxaca and by the National Council of Science and Technology in Mexico (CONACyT by its Spanish initials) through a doctoral fellowship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Our study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (CI: 850).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

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