Moral Distress and Feticide: Hearing the Voices of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physicians

Iris Ohel-Shani and Dalit Yassour-Borochowitz




We conducted in-depth interviews to investigate maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) physicians’ feelings about their moral thoughts and dilemmas related to providing feticide for late-term abortion in Israel. We interviewed 14 MFM physicians (who constitute approximately 40 percent of MFM physicians who perform feticide in the country) from five hospitals in Israel during 2018 and 2019. They were recruited via personal acquaintance and snowball sampling. Findings reveal that despite their clear recognition that feticide is a necessary procedure, all describe themselves as suffering from some features of moral distress related to the process. The reasons for these difficulties are rooted in the Israeli law regarding late abortions, as well as in some of the organizational procedures for making this kind of medical decision. They also come from professional and emotional dilemmas that the physicians encounter. The findings reveal a strong need for more open discussions and sharing of doubts with colleagues regarding each case of feticide. These findings build on existing knowledge and may be useful in developing strategies to support clinicians who provide these essential but sometimes difficult services.



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