Ethical and Legal Approaches to 'the Fetal Patient'

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 83, pp. 85-91, 2003

7 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2006

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Rebecca J. Cook

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Abstract

The concept of fetuses being "patients" can serve a benign protective, cautionary purpose, alerting healthcare providers and pregnant women to the implications that medical treatment can have for fetuses. The concept allows women to provide the children they intend to deliver with the care they consider appropriate. A negative effect occurs, however, if healthcare providers decide to treat pregnant women according to providers' own views of the best interests of fetuses, and compromise patients' care and self-determination without their informed consent. Some activists advocate rights of fetuses for the purpose of limiting pregnant women's self-determination. Recognition that fetuses have legitimate interests, rather than rights, is common, and opens a way to balancing various competing interests without compromising patients' rights to decide on their medical care. Courts of law generally favor this approach, and tend to allow few limits on women's choice of indicated medical care while pregnant.

Keywords: Fetal patient, Fetal interests, Fetal Surgery, Human rights, Abortion rights, Conflict of interest, Human beings, Persons

JEL Classification: I18, K19

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard and Cook, Rebecca J., Ethical and Legal Approaches to 'the Fetal Patient'. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 83, pp. 85-91, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=944915

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-4849 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

Rebecca J. Cook

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park Cr.
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-4446 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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