Ethical Issues Associated With Routine Screening and Prophylaxis for Group B Streptococcus in Pregnancy
Yancey, M K
Infectious diseases in obstetrics and gynecology 1996 4(1): 36-42
An increased awareness of the impact of group B streptococcus (GBS) infection on neonatal outcome has prompted several seemingly discordant committee recommendations. Intrapartum antibiotics are effective in reducing the risk of neonatal morbidity when administered to a colonized woman who has a clinical condition that places her neonate at high risk for early-onset sepsis. However, less is known about the efficacy of prophylactic antibiotics in the colonized woman who does not have obvious risk factors. Some authorities have suggested that providers refrain from administering intrapartum antibiotics to colonized women who do not have any of these risk factors, primarily due to concerns about potential adverse reactions, selection of resistant pathogens, and cost-effectiveness. These recommendations may conflict with the desires of an informed woman who weighs the real, albeit low, risk for serious neonatal disease against the lower perceived risk of adverse maternal sequelae from allergic reactions to the antimicrobial agents. Selective prophylaxis for GBS disease that is limited to the colonized parturient with risk factors has the potential for creating conflict because maternal beneficence-based obligations of the physician may be at odds with maternal autonomy-based obligations. We believe that, given all currently available information, providers have a moral obligation to discuss GBS screening and treatment issues with patients. The potential for conflict between patient and physician at the time of delivery can be minimized through the use of preventive ethics, allowing patients to develop advance directives regarding intrapartum management within the confines of reasonable and cost-effective care. Until a consensus is reached among experts, the most prudent approach would be to address such issues proactively and individualize care based upon the overall estimation and anticipation of risk as well as the patient's specific desires.
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