Ethical Issues in Fetal Management: A Cardiac Perspective
International journal of pediatrics 2010; 2010: 857460
The ethical issues behind the management of a fetus with a serious abnormality and the decisions made in relation to the outcome of the pregnancy are complex. This reflective paper deals with the ethical principles of managing a pregnancy with a congenital anomaly, with particular emphasis on the fetus with a serious cardiac abnormality. One major ethical concern is whether the fetus is or is not independent being to whom obligations of beneficence are owed. We review the debate on this matter, and suggest that it is ethically more appropriate for physicians who are involved in management of fetal abnormality not to adopt and insist on their own position on this matter. Rather, the appropriate course is to respect the pregnant woman's own view of her fetus and how it should be regarded. This is an application of the principle of respect for autonomy. Within this framework, we discuss the difficulties in counselling a pregnant woman or expectant couple in this situation, and recommend three key steps in ethically sound counselling.
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