Recent legal movements and rules are being placed within the practice of maternal mothers with focus on the protection of the fetus as a separate entity from the woman. These legalities are said to question the rights of the pregnant woman about her own medical care and decisions. The new protective actions for the fetus will enforce criminal charges on women who behave in a way that is associated with fetal harm or adverse perinatal outcomes. The ethical dilemmas with maternal decision making are being approached because it “constrains the pregnant woman’s decision making by punishing them which erode a woman’s basic rights to privacy and body integrity.” (ACOG, 2011) The technological advances of current imaging, testing, and treating of fetuses help to create the view of a fetus being considered as an independent patient. They can be treated apart from the woman with whom their existence depends on. Civil laws regarding treatment of the fetus are critiqued because of the failure to address the health needs of the pregnant woman. Since an intervention on a fetus must be performed through the body of the pregnant woman many ethical and legal complications of protecting the fetus arise.
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act was signed in April of 2004 that legally implemented a federal offense or crime could be placed on a woman if she was to cause the death of or cause bodily harm to a fetus at any stage throughout the pregnancy. The ethical dilemmas pertaining to the interconnectedness of the pregnant woman and the fetus are applicable concerning informed consent, patient choice in the Maternal-fetal relationship, and at-risk drinking and illicit drug use. In respect to patients’ autonomous decision making, obtaining informed con...
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...ventions may implant fear into women about whether their wishes in the delivery room will be respected. In review to the ethical challenges of advancing maternal health, the “committee on ethics strongly opposes the criminal prosecution of pregnant women whose activities may appear to cause harm to their fetuses”. (ACOG, 2011)
Perinatal outcomes and maternal behavior is not a subject that is completely understood. Judicial authorities should not be instilled for care or treatment with procedures of protecting the fetus. The development of evidence-based practice and beneficial methods for addressing substance abuse of maternal women will aid medical care while improving services that will provide safe, accessible, and successful services for women and their families.
ACOG. (2011, November). Retrieved from Maternal decisionmaking ethics and the law .