Case Study 5.2 the Moral and Ethical Questions of Aborting an Anencephalic Baby

This article discusses Moral and Ethical Questions of Aborting an Anencephalic Baby.


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            Your introduction should include a brief (no more than a paragraph) reiteration of the case study you will be discussing (see sample case study on blackboard for an example of what this could look like). In addition, be sure to provide a thesis (a single sentence would suffice) indicating what your discussion will entail and the position you will be arguing for.

Supporting paragraphs:

            For your supporting paragraphs, use the prompt questions provided as a guideline. Make sure that your responses to the prompt questions are in paragraph form. Do not simply state the question and answer it. A few things to consider in your responses to the questions:

1.      Anytime you state your position, be sure to provide supporting evidence for your position. For example, do not simply state, “I strongly agree that the patient has the right to do what they won’t with their own body”; or “I agree with the decision of the court.”

Make sure that whenever these assertions are made that there is a reason(s) why you agree or disagree with such a position. For example (in the former example), you may examine the notion of autonomy, and or how the law protects the rights of the individual to make their own decisions (while at the same time stating the extend of these rights).

2.      In many cases, you may want to appeal to an ethical system(s), or expose the underlying rational for such decisions being made. However, if you are going to discuss an ethical system, take some time to briefly state what the system entails, which in turn, will show that you understand the system, and are applying it correctly.

3.      Because of the persuasive nature of this paper, it is required to present opposing views (at least two), and then provide a response to those objections. In addition, you must interact with at least two articles (articles from the text will suffice) This will show that you have a thorough understanding of the central issues within a given topic, and will give further credence to your overall discussion.


            Your summary should reiterate your thesis, and provide concluding thoughts, by restating (briefly) the points made in your supporting paragraphs. In addition, if applicable, you may close your paper in conversational form (as if you’re providing advice to a patient, and or general audience).

Further points to keep in mind:

1.      Proof read your paper. I will be looking at grammar.

2.      Use MLA or APA or Turabian format if you use further articles, or use a quote from the text book.

3.      Papers will be assessed out of 40 points.


Case Study 5.2 the Moral and Ethical Questions of Aborting an Anencephalic Baby


No matter which side of the abortion debate one embraces, there are moral and ethical questions that need to be conclusively answered at the personal level concerning the status of the unborn. To demonstrate the moral ethical questions, I use Case Study 5.2 on aborting the anencephalic baby.

This was after I and my spouse determined that the child with whom I am pregnant has been diagnosed with anencephaly, a life threatening genetic disorder that is characterized by an undeveloped cerebral cortex of the brain. Presently the pregnancy is in its second trimester and my physician recommends I terminate the pregnancy soonest possible as the child will be born in a permanent vegetative state and is most likely to live for just a few months (Dickman et al, 2016).

Although some anencephalic babies have lived to celebrate their first birthday, the doctor cautions there are some extra risks in a natural delivery due to unusually large shape of the baby’s skull even though a caesarian section would help avoid the risk but in my view this is a more invasive delivery method.

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Moral and Ethical Questions of Aborting an Anencephalic Baby
Moral and Ethical Questions of Aborting an Anencephalic Baby

Likewise, I hold strong feelings on the morality of abortion if executed for non-medical reasons but since this child is unborn the question whether it is actually a person since he or she will be born with no higher brain but only a brain stem cloud mind. Despite having a strong Roman Catholic upbringing, I am persuaded that abortion is the best way to go.

The Primary Moral Issues to Be Resolved In This Case

From a medical point of view and considering that I hold the position it is not just life but the quality of that life that is to be chiefly desired, it is clear that anencephaly is a severe neural tube closure defect having a 12 months mortality rate of 100%, but the decision to abort my unborn baby means I have some primary moral issues to resolve together with my husband who is a staunch Roman Catholic.

Even though the moral and ethical issues can be broken down into three or so questions they all relate to whether the anencephalic is a person. Subsequently, the first moral and ethical issue to address is whether those who argue that anencephalic due to their inability to function as persons should be taken as non-persons are right.

The next issue to address is whether brain death standard should be utilized in neocortical death. The third issue to examine is in the event that anencephalic are indicated to be persons, then what level of medical care are they entitled to.

Other issues to consider would be if the anencephalic feel pain, is okay to use them for organ donation were it not for the limited scope of this paper.

The Decision I Will Make

After thorough and comprehensive consultations with my husband, we have reached a consensus that aborting the anencephalic unborn child is the best course of action for both of us. This is because we adopted the functionalist concept of personhood that amongst other things outlines that a person is one who currently has the capacity to function in a certain way. 

The characteristics of personhood entail traits like self- consciousness, self- determination, consciousness of the external world, will full direction, and emotional expressions. In the second trimester doctors usually conduct a number of prenatal screening that can detect various chromosomal and congenital condition in the fetus (Masters, 2017).

Once the prenatal screening and the diagnostic’s test s that follow indicate a condition with poor prognosis, the doctor as was my case can medically indicate the termination for the pregnancy. The parents have a choice to terminate the pregnancy due to the severe medical condition. As an elective termination, we felt we were ill equipped to handle the lifelong special needs of the anencephalic child.

Does Ending the Pregnancy Parallel to Turning off Life Support Machine of A Terminally Ill Patient

Despite the doctor indicating that I terminate the pregnancy of the anencephalic fetus, he reminded me that terminating the pregnancy was like turning off the life support machine connected to a critically ill patient. I however reminded him that physicians do advice the stopping of life support if a prognosis indicated no hope for recovery as demonstrated by the patient’s organs failing to function on their own.

Considering that there is not time the anencephalic will be expected to grow a higher brain, the lesser evil is to withdraw the life support via the act of abortion and let the patient die within hours(Chartland, 2018) . This would avoid unnecessary high healthcare costs that would deplete the family income.


In conclusion, this essay has established that there will always exist moral, ethical, legal and medical reasons regarding whether the anencephalic infant should live or not. There also need to restate that anencephalic infant’s one born should be respected and care for as persons who should enjoy the right to medical treatment and palliative care.

This means that their death should not be hastened in order to get organs to donate. However, the woman carrying the anencephalic fetus should be granted the right to terminate the pregnancy at any stage whether the husband objects to or not.

As a couple, the parents should identify care priorities after getting honest and complete information from the physician and decide on whether to terminate the pregnancy. Even though the termination of a pregnancy may be a difficult and morally distressing decision to make, the mother, helped by her husband if married have the power to chart a brighter journey for the couple and their children.


Chartrand, L. (2018). Individualism and the decision to withdraw life support. Societies8(4), 117.

de Castro Santana, M. V. M., Cabral Canêdo, F. M., & Vecchi, A. P. (2016). Anencephaly: knowledge and opinion of gynecologists, obstetricians and pediatricians in Goiânia. Revista Bioética24(2).

Masters, A. (2017). The Ethics of Brazilian Abortion Law in the Age of Zika: A Pro-Choice, Pro-Disabled-Rights Perspective. Voices in Bioethics3.

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