Ethical considerations of maternal-fetal surgery

Abigail C. Rousseau, Kirsten A. Riggan, Mauro H. Schenone, Kevin J. Whitford, Siobhan T. Pittock, Megan A. Allyse

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The practice of maternal-fetal surgery (MFS) has expanded from lethal fetal conditions to conditions which are significantly disabling but not a lethal fetal abnormality. The inclusion of myelomeningocele within the scope of MFS in the 1990s sparked a renewed debate over the ethics of MFS. While demonstrating increasing efficacy and range of application, MFS continues to be ethically fraught due to the inherent tension between maternal and fetal interests. Ethical issues central to MFS include the patienthood of the fetus; the balance of risks and benefits between the woman and fetus; informed consent for experimental procedures; and determination of conditions that meet ethical qualifications for MFS intervention. These concerns are likely to persist and evolve as perinatal medicine continues to advance. Here we summarize the current state of MFS ethics, highlighting the major positions in the literature thus far as well as examine future directions. It is essential robust discussions of these important issues continue both to ensure ethical medical practice and to provide support to clinicians, pregnant women, and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-527
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Perinatal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • ethics
  • maternal-fetal surgery
  • prenatal intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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