Change is the only constant thing, so an old expression by Heraclitus goes. Digressing for a moment, Heraclitus was a great philosopher who was commonly referred to as the dark philosopher because it was so difficult to understand his writings. This could also be attributed to the understanding he had on the nature of life and how he seemed to have contempt for the purpose of human life; something that made him view the understanding of humans as inferior. He challenged the idea of normalcy and the theory of some things staying the same. Although we may not always see the change clearly, it occurs nonetheless and no matter how much we may try to resist it, it is inevitable. Therefore, we might as well embrace it all the same.
One field that has faced rapid changes is the field of medicine. Traditional medicine has gradually been replaced with new diagnostic techniques, technology and practices that it has become obsolete. Modern medicine is characterized by sophisticated technological improvements all designed to better the health sector. Many procedures are now automated and this has significantly reduced their turnaround time and increased their efficiency. Ultrasound is an example of the technological developments evidenced in medicine. This paper is going to expound on ultrasound in relation to abortion. Should women be allowed to view images from ultrasounds before consenting to abortions? What are the ethical concerns related to such and what laws are being implemented to make ultrasounds part of abortion services?
Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique. It is used to acquire images of structures and organs inside the body by use of high-frequency sound waves. In the cases of pregnancy, ultrasound is employed by the doctors to view the fetus. It is a safe and painless procedure that involves using a small transducer (probe) and gel that is applied on the skin where imaging is intended. The probe generates and transmits high-frequency sound waves into the body through the gel. Once the sounds reach the targeted organ, they bounce back and are once again collected by the transducer. A connected computer is then used to generate an image using these sound waves. In pregnancy, they are also used to show the movement of the fetus since this procedure is conducted in real-time CITATION Gue \l 1033 (Schmidt, Beuscher-Willems and al).
This non-invasive medical technique was devised to improve maternal health during pregnancy CITATION The14 \l 1033 (Wu). However, the big argument is: should the same technique aimed at monitoring pregnancy be used to terminate the same? Ever since the passing of the Roe v. Wade act of 1972, there have been a lot of concerns on the issue of abortion. Ultrasound happens to be one of these concerns. For starters, abortion should be viewed as a personal decision made in the best interest. This does not justify it entirely but neither does it condemn it. It is not usually an easy step to take and for this reason any woman who decides to abort must have given it much thought before finally settling for this idea. It is therefore important to respect her decision based on her reasons because even if they may not sound wise and valid to you, they sure are to her. It is only in understanding and making peace with that will we be in a position to accept them and avoid the stigmatization associated with abortion CITATION Lis01 \l 1033 (Mitchell).
With that being said, women who wish to abort should be accorded all medical rights as per their wishes. Withholding certain information from them and not responding to their requests is not ethical and this includes their ultrasound requests. There is nothing wrong with a woman requesting to view her ultrasound images before consenting to an abortion CITATION Jul12 \l 1033 (Roberts). In medical ethics, there are some general principles that encompass the practical applications of medicine in the hospital setting. These are principles that every medical practitioner ought to adhere to for the best practice of medicine. Some of these ethics include:
Respect for autonomy
Concept of informed consent
Truthfulness and honesty
This paper is going to expound on each of these ethics in relation to the issue of women being allowed to view images from ultrasounds before consenting to an abortion.
RESPECT FOR AUTONOMY.
The principle of autonomy under medical ethics grants the patient the right to choose his/her fate in the hospital and the doctors should respect this choice as well. Much as the doctors are well versed in medicine and health issues, they should seek the opinion of the patient and not merely impose treatment on them just because they approve. The opinion of the patient matters as much as the doctors. Furthermore, the doctor should be very careful while handling the patient and avoid scenarios where the patient may be uncomfortable or less informed concerning anything that is done to him/her CITATION Ala97 \l 1033 (Campbell).
In the case of abortion, if a woman requests an ultrasound, it is the responsibility of the doctor to conduct it. This is because it is the patient's choice and ought to be respected for whatever reasons she might be having. In addition to that, the doctor should go a step further and interpret the results of the ultrasound to the woman upon her request as he/she is in a better position to do so. Who knows? Maybe this could even change the woman's choice of going on with the abortion and save a life altogether CITATION Lis01 \l 1033 (Mitchell).
Respecting autonomy basically involves the patient in making decisions concerning her health. The whole idea behind it is not to make the patient feel as if the decisions are made for her especially a woman whose ultrasound request could change her mind on such an important issue. Therefore, in a free country where the constitution is upheld and human rights considered, no one should be put through a medical procedure that he/she does not consent to.
This principle states that any medical practitioner should always act in the best interest of the patient. This includes allowing the patient her wishes and choices as far as her health is concerned. A doctor (or any medical practitioner at that) who denies a woman her right to access her ultrasound images right before an abortion is in breach of this principle and fails to act in the best interest of the woman. Although there may be claims that the sole purpose of medicine is healing, a pregnant woman should not be denied her ultrasound request. Abortion should be a safe and legal practice. Besides that, it should be constitutionally protected CITATION Jul12 \l 1033 (Roberts).
First, do no harm; is the statement on which the non-maleficence principle is based on. Medically, even before you can resort to doing your patients well, it is more important not to hurt them. Before making a patient undergo any medical procedure you consider beneficial, you should first ensure it is harmless. Therefore, with respect to abortion and ultrasound, denying the women access to their ultrasound effects does more harm than good. First, the patient is denied her right to information concerning her own health which is both illegal and unfair. Secondly, the patient right to choose what she wants is limited. These two events harm the woman psychologically and sometimes even physically because the information from the ultrasound results could be useful in conducting a safer abortion CITATION Lis01 \l 1033 (Mitchell).
CONCEPT OF INFORMED CONSENT
The informed concept is the principle that grants a patient the right to be fully informed about his/her health and understands the associated risks and benefits before he/she can make an informed decision. As a medical practitioner, withholding ultrasound images from a woman who wishes to abort is denying her right to full information concerning her health. Regardless of what her intentions are, in the hospital setting, she is still a patient who ought to be treated as one by fully explaining to her what she needs to know and in the manner, she fancies CITATION Jul12 \l 1033 (Roberts).
TRUTHFULNESS AND HONESTY
This goes without saying since lies are unacceptable in a hospital setting where the lives of patients are at stake. At all times, the information provided to the patient should be true and without any alterations whatsoever. This includes even implied lies and those of withholding some information such as ultrasound images to a woman seeking abortion CITATION Rob97 \l 1033 (Veatch).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Campbell, AlastairV. Medical ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Mitchell, Lisa Meryn. Baby's first picture: ultrasound and the politics of fetal subjects. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2001.
Roberts, Julie. The visualized fetus: a cultural and political analysis of ultrasound imagery. Burlington: Farnham Surrey, 2012.
Schmidt, Guenter, B Beuscher-Willems and et al. Ultrasound. New York: Stuttgart, 2007.
Veatch, Robert M. Medical Ethics. Sudbury Mass, 1997.
Wu, Theresa S. Ultrasound. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2014.
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