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Terminating pregnancy after prenatal diagnosis—with a little help of professional ethics?
  1. Dagmar Schmitz
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dagmar Schmitz, Institute for History, Theory and Ethics in Medicine, RWTH Aachen, Wendlingweg 2, Aachen 52074, Germany; daschmitz{at}ukaachen.de

Abstract

Termination of pregnancy after a certain gestational age and following prenatal diagnosis, in many nations seem to be granted with a special status to the extent that they by law have to be discussed within a predominantly medical context and have physicians as third parties involved in the decision-making process (‘indication-based’ approach). The existing legal frameworks for indication-based approaches, however, do frequently fail to provide clear guidance for the involved physicians. Critics, therefore, asked for professional ethics and professional institutions in order to provide normative guidance for the physicians in termination of pregnancy on medical grounds. After outlining the clinical pathway in an indication-based approach and the involved types of (clinical) judgements, this paper draws upon different understandings of professional ethics in order to explore their potential to provide normative guidance in termination of pregnancy on medical grounds. The analysis reveals that professional ethics will not suffice—neither as a set of established norms nor as internal morality—in order to determine the normative framework of indication-based approaches on termination of pregnancy. In addition, there seem to be considerable inconsistencies regarding the target and outcome between prenatal testing on the one hand and following termination of pregnancy on the other hand. A source of morality external to medicine has to be the basis of evaluation if a consistent and workable normative framework for termination of pregnancy and prenatal testing should be established.

  • Abortion
  • clinical ethics
  • professional misconduct
  • philosophy of medicine
  • genetic screening/testing

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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