Between Professional Duty and Ethical Confusion: Midwives and Selective Termination of Pregnancy
Nursing Ethics 2002 March; 9(2): 179-191
This qualitative study describes midwives' experiences in relation to termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormalities, and their corresponding professional and ethical position. Thirteen midwives working in a university clinic were interviewed about their problems in this respect. The information gathered was evaluated by using qualitative content analysis. The study focused on the emotional experience of the midwives, their professional position, and ethical conflict. In this situation, midwives are faced with a conflict between the woman's right to self-determination on one hand and the right to life of the child on the other. This conflict causes a high level of emotional stress and, subsequently, professional identity problems. Although questions concerning the child's right to life are generally suppressed, the ethical principle of the woman's right to self-determination is rationalized. Although this process of rationalization seems to present a false ethical decision, it enables midwives to continue with their daily professional duties. As far as orientating midwives to the value of these women's right to self-determination is concerned, it must be assumed that they have made an ethical decision to which they have given insufficient thought. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that midwives are largely excluded from the decision- making process of the parents in question. They cannot therefore help in this process in a valuable and responsible way by providing clear information and proposing objective criteria. In relation to the tasks they are expected to fulfill, these midwives revealed that they were in a state of professional confusion.
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