Terminating a pregnancy in Intensive Care Unit without the patient's consent: Ethical and medico-legal issues.
Keywords:Autonomy, Consent, Incapacity, Termination of pregnancy, Collegiality, Decision making, Resuscitation, Trusted person, Family, Medical secrecy and information
In France, the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy for medical reasons can be requested by the woman, whatever the term of the pregnancy, if it is attested that the continuation of the pregnancy seriously endangers her health. The termination of the pregnancy is then subject to the collegial opinion of a Pluridisciplinary Centre for Prenatal Diagnosis, which must give a favourable decision after analysing the situation. Following, it is the woman who takes the final decision. Respect for the autonomy of the pregnant woman is therefore a fundamental principle in prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy in French law.
In this article, we analyse a situation that raises complex ethical and decision-making issues where the termination of pregnancy is required when the patient is neither able to formulate a request nor to consent, due to her pathology requiring hospitalization in intensive care.
If the continuation of the pregnancy poses a serious threat to the patient's health, urgency may be an acceptable argument for acting without the patient's consent. This urgency is understood here as the fact that, without a rapid decision, the clinical situation has little chance of improving or even deteriorating. In this context, we discuss the arguments for terminating the pregnancy and the importance of consulting the parents and spouse, so as not to exclude relatives from the decision-making process. Finally, our analysis questions the limits of medical secrecy in intensive care when a dialogue and an exchange of information with relatives appears essential, in particular when the patient cannot participate in the decision and when there are complex decisions to be made.