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Title: Ethical analysis of non-medical fetal ultrasound
Authors: Leung, JLY
Pang, SMC 
Keywords: Ethics
Non-medical fetal ultrasound
Obstetric ultrasound
Pregnant woman
Prenatal test
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd
Source: Nursing ethics, 2009, v. 16, no. 5, p. 637-646 How to cite?
Journal: Nursing Ethics 
Abstract: Obstetric ultrasound is the well-recognized prenatal test used to visualize and determine the condition of a pregnant woman and her fetus. Apart from the clinical application, some businesses have started promoting the use of fetal ultrasound machines for nonmedical reasons. Non-medical fetal ultrasound (also known as 'keepsake' ultrasound) is defined as using ultrasound to view, take a picture, or determine the sex of a fetus without a medical indication. Notwithstanding the guidelines and warnings regarding ultrasound safety issued by governments and professional bodies, the absence of scientifically proven physical harm to fetuses from this procedure seems to provide these businesses with grounds for rapid expansion. However, this argument is too simplistic because current epidemiological evidence is not synchronous with advancing ultrasound technology. As non-medical fetal ultrasound has aroused very significant public attention, a thorough ethical analysis of this topic is essential. Using a multifaceted approach, we analyse the ethical perspective of non-medical fetal ultrasound in terms of the expectant mother, the fetus and health professionals. After applying four major theories of ethics and principles (the precautionary principle; theories of consequentialism and impartiality; duty-based theory; and rights-based theories), we conclude that obstetric ultrasound practice is ethically justifiable only if the indication for its use is based on medical evidence. Non-medical fetal ultrasound can be considered ethically unjustifiable. Nevertheless, the ethical analysis of this issue is time dependent owing to rapid advancements in ultrasound technology and the safety issue. The role of health professionals in ensuring that obstetric ultrasound is an ethically justifiable practice is also discussed.
DOI: 10.1177/0969733009106655
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