The professional responsibility model of obstetrical ethics: avoiding the perils of clashing rights

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Oct;205(4):315.e1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jun 12.


Obstetric ethics is sometimes represented by polarized views. One extreme asserts the rights of the fetus as the overwhelming ethical consideration. Another extreme asserts the pregnant woman as the overwhelming ethical consideration. Both assertions are overly simplistic. Such oversimplification is called reductionism. This article explains the fallacy of rights-based reductionism and 2 models of obstetric ethics based on it and explains why the fetal rights reductionism model and the pregnant woman's rights reductionism model result in conceptual and clinical failure and therefore should be abandoned. The article argues for the professional responsibility model of obstetric ethics, which emphasizes the importance of medical science and compassionate clinical care of both the pregnant and fetal patient. The result is that responsible medical care overrides the extremes of clashing rights.

MeSH terms

  • Human Rights*
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Obstetrics / ethics*