Ethical issues in fetal surgery research

Frank A. Chervenak, Laurence B. McCullough, David J. Birnbach

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Research in fetal surgery is currently ethically controversial, especially because it poses risks to both the fetus and the pregnant woman. We provide an ethical framework for fetal surgery research based on the concept of the fetus as a patient. This framework results in criteria for preliminary investigation of new fetal surgery techniques, for the initiation and termination of clinical trials, the informed consent process, inclusion or exclusion of women based on abortion preferences and the obligations of physicians to refer patients to fetal research protocols. We demonstrate the applicability of this framework to fetal surgery research for spina bifida, a common fetal anomaly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Anaesthesiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Ethics
  • Fetal research
  • Fetal surgery
  • Fetus as a patient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Psychology(all)


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