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June 16, 1989

Polarity Within Beneficence: Additional Thoughts on Nonaggressive Obstetric Management

JAMA. 1989;261(23):3454-3455. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420230108036

CHERVENAK and McCullough1 continue carefully to climb the slippery slope, searching for secure stopping places between the poles. At one extreme are the evolving-world moral relativists, rallied 'round the flag of quality of life. They are inclined to be consequentialists, concerned with reasonably predictable results of action in the here and now. At the other end are the fixed-world moral absolutists, bearing the banner of sanctity of life. They are inclined to be deontologists, concerned with axioms based on values often but not always established by faith. By one group Chervenak and McCullough will be commended for endorsing a reasoned use of available technology to prognosticate and thereby select the statistically appropriate treatment for a fetus-patient. This technique involves a palatable mixture of high-tech sonography and genetics seasoned with high-touch ethics, including a dollop of autonomy and a dash of beneficence. By the other group