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J Med Ethics. 2014 Feb;40(2):117-22. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2012-101126. Epub 2013 Apr 9.

Does professional orientation predict ethical sensitivities? Attitudes of paediatric and obstetric specialists toward fetuses, pregnant women and pregnancy termination.

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1
Department of Radiology, Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, , Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

To determine (1) whether fetal care paediatric (FCP) and maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists harbour differing attitudes about pregnancy termination for congenital fetal conditions, their perceived responsibilities to pregnant women and fetuses, and the fetus as a patient and (2) whether self-perceived primary responsibilities to fetuses and women and views about the fetus as a patient are associated with attitudes about clinical care.

METHODS:

Mail survey of 434 MFM and FCP specialists (response rates 60.9% and 54.2%, respectively).

RESULTS:

MFMs were more likely than FCPs to disagree with these statements (all p values<0.005): (1) 'the presence of a fetal abnormality is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination' (MFM : FCP-78.4% vs 63.5%); (2) 'the effects that a child born with disabilities might have on marital and family relationships is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination' (MFM : FCP-80.5% vs 70.2%); and (3) 'the cost of healthcare for the future child is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination' (MFM : FCP-73.5% vs 55.9%). 65% MFMs versus 47% FCPs disagreed that their professional responsibility is to focus primarily on fetal well-being (p<0.01). Specialists did not differ regarding the fetus as a separate patient. Responses about self-perceived responsibility to focus on fetal well-being were associated with clinical practice attitudes.

CONCLUSIONS:

Independent of demographic and sociopolitical characteristics, FCPs and MFMs possess divergent ethical sensitivities regarding pregnancy termination, pregnant women and fetuses, which may influence clinical care.

KEYWORDS:

Demographic Surveys/Attitudes; Embryos and Fetuses; Moral and Religious Aspects; Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Paediatrics

PMID:
23572566
DOI:
10.1136/medethics-2012-101126
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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