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Parental obligation and compelled caesarean section: careful analogies and reliable reasoning about individual cases

Parental obligation and compelled caesarean section: careful analogies and reliable reasoning about individual cases
Parental obligation and compelled caesarean section: careful analogies and reliable reasoning about individual cases
Whether it is morally permissible to compel women to undergo a caesarean section is a topic of longstanding debate. Despite plenty of arguments against the moral permissibility of a forced caesarean section, the question keeps cropping up. This paper seeks to scrutinise a particular moral argument in favour of compulsion: the appeal to parental obligation. We present what we take to be a distillation of the basic form of this argument. We then argue that, in the absence of an exhaustive theory of parental obligation, the question of whether a labouring woman is morally obliged to undergo emergency surgery—and especially the further question of it is morally permissible for third parties to compel this—cannot be answered via ready-made theory. We propose that the most viable option for settling both questions is by analogy. We follow earlier writers in presenting an analogous case—that of fathers being compelled to undergo non-consensual invasive surgery to save their children—but expand the analogy by considering objections that appeal to the ownership of the fetus. We offer two lines of response: (1) the parthood view of pregnancy and (2) chimaera dad. We argue that it is clear in the analogous case that compulsion cannot be justified. We also offer this analogy as a useful tool for assessing whether mothers have a moral duty to undergo caesarean sections, both in general and in particular cases, even if such a duty is insufficient to warrant compulsion.
autonomy, coercion, future child disability, obstetrics and gynaecology, right to refuse treatment
1473-4257
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63
Porter, Lindsey
ac674521-d2af-4325-bee6-4c8b1d93dbe9
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63
Porter, Lindsey
ac674521-d2af-4325-bee6-4c8b1d93dbe9

Kingma, Elselijn and Porter, Lindsey (2020) Parental obligation and compelled caesarean section: careful analogies and reliable reasoning about individual cases. Journal of Medical Ethics, [medethics-2020-106072]. (doi:10.1136/medethics-2020-106072).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Whether it is morally permissible to compel women to undergo a caesarean section is a topic of longstanding debate. Despite plenty of arguments against the moral permissibility of a forced caesarean section, the question keeps cropping up. This paper seeks to scrutinise a particular moral argument in favour of compulsion: the appeal to parental obligation. We present what we take to be a distillation of the basic form of this argument. We then argue that, in the absence of an exhaustive theory of parental obligation, the question of whether a labouring woman is morally obliged to undergo emergency surgery—and especially the further question of it is morally permissible for third parties to compel this—cannot be answered via ready-made theory. We propose that the most viable option for settling both questions is by analogy. We follow earlier writers in presenting an analogous case—that of fathers being compelled to undergo non-consensual invasive surgery to save their children—but expand the analogy by considering objections that appeal to the ownership of the fetus. We offer two lines of response: (1) the parthood view of pregnancy and (2) chimaera dad. We argue that it is clear in the analogous case that compulsion cannot be justified. We also offer this analogy as a useful tool for assessing whether mothers have a moral duty to undergo caesarean sections, both in general and in particular cases, even if such a duty is insufficient to warrant compulsion.

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Postprint - 2020 - Compelled Caesarean - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 25 April 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 June 2020
Keywords: autonomy, coercion, future child disability, obstetrics and gynaecology, right to refuse treatment

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 442138
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/442138
ISSN: 1473-4257
PURE UUID: 76cdf069-3f31-4613-a83c-232a34ea6aa0

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Date deposited: 07 Jul 2020 16:54
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 07:18

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Author: Elselijn Kingma
Author: Lindsey Porter

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