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"Simply providing information": Negotiating the ethical dilemmas of obstetric ultrasound, prenatal testing and selective termination of pregnancy


Stephenson, N and Mills, C and McLeod, K, "Simply providing information": Negotiating the ethical dilemmas of obstetric ultrasound, prenatal testing and selective termination of pregnancy, Feminism and Psychology, 27, (1) pp. 72-91. ISSN 0959-3535 (2016) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2016 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1177/0959353516679688


Obstetric ultrasound is key to opposing ways of valuing foetuses, that is, both to the ascription of foetal personhood and to foetal selection and termination of pregnancy. Whilst ultrasound images are increasingly common within the public sphere there has been relatively little public discussion of its role in identifying actual or potential foetal anomaly and the consequences of this. This paper examines how professionals working with obstetric ultrasound encounter, navigate and make sense of the different uses of this technology. Professionals commonly delineate their work (as providing information) from women’s autonomous choices. Emphasising "women’s choice" can obscure consideration of different collective ways of valuing foetuses with anomalies. It can also deflect consideration of the fundamentally ambiguous information that ultrasound can produce. Distinguishing information from choice is underpinned by a questionable fact–value distinction. We describe alternate professional practices which involve questioning these binaries and foregrounding clinicians’ responsibilities for women’s current and future experience. Public discussion of ultrasound’s different roles in valuing foetuses would be enriched if the discourses and practices shaping professionals’ attempts to facilitate ethical decision-making were included for collective consideration.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:termination of pregnancy, obstetric ultrasound, population screening, apparatus of choice, patient autonomy
Research Division:Studies in Human Society
Research Group:Other Studies in Human Society
Research Field:Gender Specific Studies
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
Author:McLeod, K (Dr Kim McLeod)
ID Code:112214
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-10-31
Last Modified:2017-06-26

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