The Therapeutic Exception: Abortion, Sterilization and Medical Necessity in Costa Rica
Developing World Bioethics 2007 August; 7(2): 55-63
Based on the case of Rosa, a nine-year-old girl who was denied a therapeutic abortion, this article analyzes the role played by the social in medical practice. For that purpose, it compares the different application of two similar pieces of legislation in Costa Rica, where both the practice of abortion and sterilization are restricted to the protection of health and life by the Penal Code. As a concept subject to interpretation, a broad conception of medical necessity could enable an ample use of the therapeutic exception and a liberal use of both surgeries. The practice of therapeutic sterilization has been generalized in Costa Rica and has become the legitimate way to distribute contraceptive sterilization. In contrast, therapeutic abortion is very rarely practiced. The analysis carried out proposes that it is the difference in social acceptance of abortion and sterilization that explains the different use that doctors, as gatekeepers of social morality, make of medical necessity.
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