The objective of this paper is to provide an ethical analysis of the concept of the fetus as a patient and to identify the clinical implications of this concept for maternal-fetal medicine. The principles of beneficence and respect for autonomy are applied to the viable and previable fetus. We argue that the viable fetus is a fetal patient. The previable fetus is a fetal patient only when the pregnant woman confers such status on it. When the fetus is a patient, directive counseling for fetal benefit is ethically justified. When the fetus is not a patient, counseling should be non-directive.