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Medical Ethics Short and Long Term Implications of the Medical Termination of a Pregnancy

A Traumatizing Decision

Ending a pregnancy is a traumatizing decision for parents. There are times when a pregnancy leads to an unexpected medical termination for one reason or another. This usually happens when doctors detect a medical problem with a baby, or there is a health-related, life-threatening problem with the mother and the doctors recommend medical termination of the pregnancy.

Both of these scenarios have short and long-term implications for parents, particularly the mother, and the aborted baby.

“No one who conceives a pregnancy expects to have to terminate it for medical reasons, or for a normally happy event to become one of sadness.”

Medical termination of a pregnancy is not an easy decision for any parent to make. At times, the decision becomes one that the mother has to make on her own. At other times, the decision is made by the baby’s father, when the mother’s life is in danger and she is not able to be part of the decision making process. Parents can make the decision together, but even that is not easy.

While medical termination of a pregnancy is optional and often regarded as the best possible decision by physicians, the parents in each situation may respond to this kind of medical resolution in a positive, or a negative way. They may agree or disagree with the recommendation by doctors and specialists. They may consent to it or fight against the medical decision.

Note that in terms of short or long-term implications, there are always physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the termination of a pregnancy to take into consideration. Some of these are immediate, but not all of them. Even many years later, parents may still suffer painful, mental and emotional trauma because of the decision they made.

“It is not how many children you have, but always the one you lost,” says a grieving mother, many years later.

At times, there is no other possible option, particularly when the mother’s life is at stake in an emergency. At times, it comes down to a choice between the life of a mother and the life of her unborn baby.

Attempting to make the right decision about the medical termination of a pregnancy, can lead to short or long-term marital conflict that is difficult, at times impossible to resolve. It can also lead to an eventual marriage breakup.

Medical termination of a pregnancy can put the mother’s own life at risk, as well as present a serious problem with respect to future pregnancies, particularly if she does not receive proper medical attention.

Parents sometimes choose to allow their baby to be born, even when they know that it is an extremely high-risk pregnancy. When a baby has a known genetic defect, parents can find themselves caught up in a devastating dilemma.

Is the diagnosis correct? Should there be further investigation? Should they allow the baby to be born regardless of his or her potential medical status and the extensive medical demands and requirements with respect to the baby’s future care? At times, this can be extremely costly.

Even when there is consent from both parents with respect to the medical termination of a pregnancy, there can be tremendous mental and emotional implications for both parents and other family members, at that time, or later.

Grief and guilt associated with ending the life of an unborn baby, is something that parents have to live with. For many that is not easy, particularly for those who strongly believe that all human life is sacred.

Parents considering the possibility of a medical termination to a pregnancy should receive appropriate medical, spiritual and psychiatric advice and counseling, as there are short and long-term implications that will affect their lives. There may also be moral, ethical and legal consequences to consider, depending upon the circumstances of the medical termination of a pregnancy.

Medical termination of a pregnancy is a life changing, traumatizing decision for parents.