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Student Essay
Maternal request for caesarean section: an ethical consideration
  1. Hannah Selinger
  1. University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Hannah Selinger, Hks1g09{at}soton.ac.uk

Abstract

Caesarean section (CS) is a method of delivering a baby through a surgical incision into the abdominal wall. Until recently in the UK, it was preserved as a procedure which was only carried out in certain circumstances. These included if the fetus lay in a breech position or was showing signs of distress leading to a requirement for rapid delivery. CS is perceived as a safe method of delivery due to the recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in these situations. As a result, the opportunity for maternal request for CS arose, whereby the mother requests the operation despite no medical indication. There are risks associated with CS, as with all surgery, however, these risks in current and future pregnancies may not be fully understood by the mother. The ethics of exposing mothers to these risks, as well as performing surgery on what is otherwise a healthy patient, become entangled with the demand for patient choice, as well as the increasing financial strain on our healthcare system. The main question to be examined in this essay is whether it is ethical to allow women to choose a CS in the absence of obstetric indication, taking into account the increased risk to the mother and her future offspring in order to potentially decrease the risk to the current baby. Alongside a case report, this analysis will apply Beauchamp and Childress’ four principles of biomedical ethics and an exploration of the scientific literature.

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