• Ethical Standards

    The Cincinnati Fetal Center commits to the highest ethical standards in patient care, therapeutic innovation, and research. The information on this page guides the healthcare professionals under the auspices of the center.

  • The practice of medicine is a moral enterprise involving values that may conflict. Autonomy, beneficence / nonmaleficence, justice, veracity and fidelity are well defined and supported ethical values in medicine.

    It is important to consider these values both from the patient’s / family’s perspective and the healthcare professional’s perspective. The ongoing relationship between the healthcare professional and the patient / family forms the foundation on which decisions are made.

    These values may provide clarity and guidance when there is a difference of opinion. We define these terms below.

    Autonomy

    Refers to a person’s right to make choices regarding oneself. A pregnant woman is in a unique position in that she is/represents, in effect, two patients, herself and her fetus (or her children in the case of a multiple pregnancy). An autonomous informed decision made by a pregnant woman will affect both patients. Autonomy also refers to the self-governance of the healthcare professional,  in so far as the healthcare professional comes to the relationship with a set of moral standards by which to live.

    Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

    They entail acting to benefit a person and to avoid harm. These principles require trust in the patient / healthcare provider relationship such that appropriate recommendations will be made to honor these values. Treatments that result in short-term harm may be recommended and tolerated for long-term benefit. 

    Justice

    Though defined multiple ways, is most frequently understood in the healthcare context as allocation of healthcare according to need, regardless of the ability to pay. It is not allocation according to contribution, effort or entitlement.      

    Veracity

    Or truth telling, is the hallmark of a fiduciary relationship. In order to provide quality healthcare, the healthcare professional requires accurate information pertinent to the problem from the patient or family.  In addition, the patient or family needs accurate information about the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options to make an informed decision.

    Fidelity

    The obligation to act in good faith to keep vows and promises, to honor ethical principles, to fulfill agreements, to maintain relationships and fiduciary responsibilities.

    Ethical Integrity of the Professional

    In addition to the ethical values discussed above, the ethical integrity of the healthcare professional is vital to the delivery of quality healthcare. It involves a moral attitude and sensitivity to other people’s needs, whether patients, families, colleagues, and includes such virtues as compassion, empathy, honesty, humility and courage. Courage, in this context, implies that a healthcare professional maintains his or her moral stance. 

    Patient Care

    • All patients referred to the Cincinnati Fetal Center will be offered a comprehensive fetal evaluation regardless of their socioeconomic status.  (Justice)
    • The services of social services, pastoral care and bioethics will be available to all patients evaluated at the Fetal Center.  (Autonomy, Justice)
    • In cases in which it is known that the fetus is not viable, the birth plan is a basis for communication among team members regarding the patient and family decision to forego life-sustaining treatment and for comfort care.  (Autonomy, Beneficence / Nonmaleficence)
    • When a therapeutic intervention is being considered, the physician will obtain informed consent from the patient.  (Autonomy, Veracity)
      • a. The physician will impart the information necessary for an informed decision, including assessment of competence, disclosure, understanding, voluntary participation in treatment and giving consent.
      • b. If the mother and father disagree, assistance in resolving the disagreement should be sought from social work, pastoral care or bioethics, and family advocacy officer.
      • c. By law, the decision rests with the mother who is capable of arriving at an informed decision.
      • d. A minor mother may present for evaluation, but no intervention will be undertaken without the written permission of the parent / guardian and minor mother.
      • e. In cases involving a surrogate mother, informed consent will be obtained from the surrogate. If a collaborative relationship exists between the surrogate and the person(s) contracting with the surrogate, the physician will, with the permission of the surrogate mother, obtain informed consent from the surrogate in the presence of the contracting parties. The physician will seek agreement from both parties, but ultimately the decision lies with the surrogate mother. In the event of conflict, social service, pastoral care, bioethics or family advocacy officer will be sought to provide assistance and guidance for conflict resolution.
    • Patients and families will be provided with information regarding all options available to them including those not provided by the Fetal Center staff, pediatric surgeon, and maternal-fetal medicine physicians.  (Autonomy, Veracity)
    • Options for treatment are presented based on the best medical information available. When decisions involve more than one therapeutic option, the physician will present therapeutic options to the patient and family explaining how the options and their risks and benefits relate to the goals of the patient and family. When a potential therapeutic option does stand out from other options, as aligned with the goals of the patient and family, the professional has a moral obligation to explain this to the patient and family. (Autonomy, Veracity, Ethical Integrity of the Professional)
    • In the situation of a monochorionic twin gestation, with danger of imminent fetal demise, where one twin is determined to have a pathology incompatible with life and is determined to be the source of risk to the viable second twin, threatening the second twin's viability and neurologic integrity, a cord ablation may be performed. Informed consent will be obtained as outlined in this policy.  (Beneficence / Nonmaleficence)
    • The Fetal Center will not perform terminations of pregnancy or selective reductions in multifetal pregnancies. Information about medical options will be provided to the patient and the patient referred back to the referring physician for further care and treatment. (Autonomy, Veracity, Ethical Integrity of the Professional, Beneficence / Nonmaleficence)
    • In the instance of a healthcare professional asking to be removed from the care of a patient due to conflicts arising from personal moral beliefs, this request should be honored as long as doing so does not jeopardize the well-being of the patient. (Ethical Integrity of the Professional, Professional’s Autonomy, Beneficence / Nonmaleficence, Fidelity)

    Therapeutic Innovations

    The Cincinnati Fetal Center is committed to quality medical care that is safe and based on the best medical knowledge available. When a therapeutic innovative procedure is offered to a patient there should be a compelling rationale and a high likelihood of success even when a clear prediction of outcome cannot be made.  (Beneficence / Nonmaleficence) 

    Research

    The Cincinnati Fetal Center is committed to quality clinical research. When patients and families are referred to the Fetal Center they should be apprised of the research nature and identity of the program. All clinical research is governed by the ethical principles set forth on this page. 

    • The efficacy of innovative therapies will be determined through appropriate clinical research trials.  (Beneficence / Nonmaleficence)
    • Informed consent will be obtained from all patients (or their legal surrogate decision makers) enrolled in a research protocol through the Fetal Center. (Autonomy)
    • The Fetal Center healthcare professionals integrate ethical considerations and analysis in the process of case review. 

    Oversight

    The Cincinnati Fetal Center clinical director, Fetal Center medical director annual review.

    Last revised Aug. 11, 2010