Article: Medical paternalism and the fetus

The relationship between a pregnant mother considering a termination and the doctor should be an expert-expert one

In 2001 I published an academic article on the ethics of abortion in the Journal of Medical Ethics.


A number of developments in the medical field have changed the debate about the ethics of abortion. These developments include: advances in fetal physiology, the increase in neonatal intensive care and the survival rates of premature infants. This paper discusses the idea of selective termination and the effects that these decisions have on disabled people of today. It presents a critique of the counselling services that are provided for the parents of a disabled fetus and discusses how this is viewed from a social perspective. The article ends with an argument that the mother deserves to be autonomous in the decision of abortion. The easiest and most fair way to develop her autonomy is to consider the relationship between a professional and a mother as an expert–expert relationship. Here both parties are considered experts in diagnostic information, treatment options, possibilities, and their history, family roots, philosophy and way of life, respectively.

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