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International Journal of Pediatrics
Volume 2010, Article ID 857460, 6 pages
Review Article

Ethical Issues in Fetal Management: A Cardiac Perspective

1Department of Neonatology, Monash Medical Centre, 246, Clayton Road, Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria 3168, Australia
2Fetal Cardiac Unit, Monash Medical Centre, 246, Clayton Road, Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria 3168, Australia
3Departments of Pediatrics & Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3168, Australia
4Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia
5Children's Bioethics Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia

Received 15 December 2009; Accepted 23 February 2010

Academic Editor: Wayne Tworetzky

Copyright © 2010 Atul Malhotra et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The ethical issues behind the management of a fetus with a serious abnormality and the decisions made in relation to the outcome of the pregnancy are complex. This reflective paper deals with the ethical principles of managing a pregnancy with a congenital anomaly, with particular emphasis on the fetus with a serious cardiac abnormality. One major ethical concern is whether the fetus is or is not independent being to whom obligations of beneficence are owed. We review the debate on this matter, and suggest that it is ethically more appropriate for physicians who are involved in management of fetal abnormality not to adopt and insist on their own position on this matter. Rather, the appropriate course is to respect the pregnant woman's own view of her fetus and how it should be regarded. This is an application of the principle of respect for autonomy. Within this framework, we discuss the difficulties in counselling a pregnant woman or expectant couple in this situation, and recommend three key steps in ethically sound counselling.