Ethics experts and fetal patients: a proposal for modesty

BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-7 (2021)
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Abstract

BackgroundEthics consultation is recognized as an opportunity to share responsibility for difficult decisions in prenatal medicine, where moral intuitions are often unable to lead to a settled decision. It remains unclear, however, if the general standards of ethics consultation are applicable to the very particular setting of pregnancy.Main textWe sought to analyze the special nature of disagreements, conflicts and value uncertainties in prenatal medicine as well as the ways in which an ethics consultation service (ECS) could possibly respond to them and illustrated our results with a case example. Ethics facilitation and conflict mediation, currently, have no broadly consented normative framework encompassing prenatal diagnosis and therapy as well as reproductive choice to draw on. Even so, they can still be helpful instruments for ethically challenging decision-making in prenatal medicine provided two additional rules are respected: For the time being, ECSs should (a) refrain from issuing content-heavy recommendations in prenatal medicine and (b) should not initiate conflict mediations that would involve the pregnant woman or couple as a conflict party.ConclusionIt seems to be vital that ethics consultants as well as health care professionals acknowledge the current limitations and pitfalls of ethics consultation in prenatal medicine and together engage in the advancement of standards for this particularly complex setting.

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