American Journal of Bioethics.

On the Cutting Edge: Ethical Responsiveness to Cesarean Rates

Cesarean delivery rates have been steadily increasing worldwide. In response, many countries have introduced target goals to reduce rates. But a focus on target goals fails to address practices embedded in standards of care that encourage, rather than discourage, cesarean sections. Obstetrical standards of care normalize use of technology, creating an imperative to use technology during labor and birth. A technological imperative is implicated in rising cesarean rates if physicians or patients fear refusing use of technology. Reproductive autonomy is at stake since a technological imperative undermines patients’ ability to choose cesareans or refuse use of technology increasing the likelihood of cesareans. To address practices driven by a technological imperative I outline three physician obligations that are attached to respecting patient autonomy. These moral obligations show that a focus on respect for autonomy may prove not only an ideal ethical response but also an achievable practical response to lowering cesarean rates.

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Volume 12, Issue 7
July 2012