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Ethical challenges in fetal surgery
  1. Anna Smajdor
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna Smajdor, School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK; a.smajdor{at}uea.ac.uk

Abstract

Fetal surgery has been practised for some decades now. However, it remains a highly complex area, both medically and ethically. This paper shows how the routine use of ultrasound has been a catalyst for fetal surgery, in creating new needs and new incentives for intervention. Some of the needs met by fetal surgery are those of parents and clinicians who experience stress while waiting for the birth of a fetus with known anomalies. The paper suggests that the role of technology and visualisation techniques in creating and meeting such new needs is ethically problematic. It then addresses the idea that fetal surgery should be restricted to interventions that are life-saving for the fetus, arguing that this restriction is unduly paternalistic. Fetal surgery poses challenges for an autonomy-based system of ethics. However, it is risky to circumvent these challenges by restricting the choices open to pregnant women, even when these choices appear excessively altruistic.

  • Applied and professional ethics
  • autonomy
  • concept of health
  • embryos and fetuses
  • fetal surgery
  • history of health ethics/bioethics
  • paternalism
  • philosophy of the health professions
  • pregnancy
  • ultrasound

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

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