Last week, prominent mommy blogger Katie Allison Granju wrote a truly startling article titled “Husband Want a Vasectomy? He’ll Have to Ask Your Permission.” Granju, a mother of five children, revealed that when she and her husband decided together that he get a vasectomy, she was required to sign before he could snip.
[A]pparently, many doctors in this country really do require men who come to them seeking vasectomies to fess up to marital status, and to then get their wives’ written consent before the physician will perform the procedure? In some cases, doctors require a face to face meeting with a man’s wife—in addition to the signed consent from her—before a vasectomy will be performed.
A story like this should have caused riptides among sexual rights activists (it certainly made my ears ring), but the only place I saw it covered was over at Instapundit, which struck me as odd. A Google search revealed a wide array of personal accounts that backed Granju up, but plenty that dismissed the practice as a rumor. What’s a journalist to believe?
So I checked with some urologists to find out. Here’s Dr. Charles Wilson from the Vasectomy Clinic in Seattle:
In terms of good medical practice, most doctors would be a little concerned—if not alarmed—if their patient didn’t talk to their spouse. I’m on the side of allowing men to make the decision even if they’re not going to tell their spouse but not without a whole lot of counseling and discussion. I want to be sure that if he’s making that decision, he’s thought about all the repercussions. Frankly, some men just don’t get it.
And Dr. Ira D. Sharlip, Chair of American Urological Association’s Vasectomy Guideline Panel:
There’s no legal requirement for spousal consent and no minimum age for vasectomy other than the minimum age of consent. But while it’s not necessary to have spousal consent, it’s a really good idea, and involving the spouse in the decision is encouraged.
Simple, boring, safe. But then where are all of these accounts coming from?
Well, according to Janet Crepps, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, while there’s absolutely no law requiring men to obtain their partner’s consent, it can be imposed on a case-by-case basis at a clinical level.
Doctors can impose requirements in a private setting in order to protect themselves legally. It’s their choice that they want to do that. While it would be pretty difficult for a wife to successfully sue a doctor for doing a vasectomy on her husband, it wouldn’t surprise me if their legal counsel insisted that they would be better off getting that consent. That said, nobody I know is imposing that kind of requirement.
In short, doctors are given license to decide on whom they perform surgery based on medical judgment and experience, but most of them seem to be conducting themselves reasonably and ethically.
But what if the genders had been reversed? What if we took out the words “urologists” and “vasectomy” and replaced them with “gynecologists” and “tubal ligation,” or even “abortion”?
Is there a double standard here, folks? And for those of you with vasectomy experience, care to share? Leave it below.