Selective termination of pregnancy.
Subject: Physician and patient (Ethical aspects)
Abortion (Moral and ethical aspects)
Authors: Holder, Angela R.
Henifin, Mary Sue
Pub Date: 02/01/1988
Publication: Name: The Hastings Center Report Publisher: Hastings Center Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 1988 Hastings Center ISSN: 0093-0334
Issue: Date: Feb-March, 1988 Source Volume: v18 Source Issue: n1
Accession Number: 6429394
Full Text: Selective Termination of Pregnancy

Ms. Q is a thirty-year-old woman who is pregnant for the first time, having spent several years in a local infertility program. She had been treated previously with clomiphene citrate, a fertility drug that increases the incidence of multiple births among those who subsequently become pregnant from 1 percent to 8 percent. Dr. G, the physician who prescribed the drug, had indicated to the patient that its use involved "some risk of multiple gestation."

At nine weeks gestation, ultra-sound reveals the presence of triples. After discussion with her husband, Ms. Q asks Dr. G to terminate two of the fetuses. She says she really wants to have a child and "be a good mother," but doesn't feel capable of caring for more than one child at a time. Even though all three fetuses appear healthy, her preference is to abort all rather than have triplets.

A technique similar to amniocentesis (in which the uterine cavity is entered) has been used to terminate selectively a defective fetus, when a serious fetal anomaly, such as Down syndrome, occurs in a multiple gestation. This technique could be used to terminate two of the triplets, but it entails an incremental risk of miscarriage. Legally, Dr. G could: (1) terminate the pregnancy through a standard method abortion; (2) selectively terminate the gestation of two of the triplets; (3) refuse to terminate the pregnancy, with transfer of care to a physician who is willing to do so. Should Dr. G acquiesce in Ms. Q's request? Is this request morally valid?
Gale Copyright: Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.