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advance directive, feminist ethics, neonatal, palliative care, prematurity, prenatal care



  1. Catlin, Anita DNSc, FNP, FAAN


The concept of advance directives is well-known in the care of adults as a mechanism for choosing in advance the extent of medical interventions desired in clinical situations, particularly life-extending interventions such as ventilation support and drugs to maintain cardiopulmonary status. Infants born extremely prematurely often require life-supporting measures for which their parents or guardians report feeling unprepared to make decisions about. Current prenatal care does not include an educational component that teaches women about the length of gestation needed for a healthy viability, survivorship, and outcome without major impairment. Women who go into preterm labor are asked to make immediate decisions during times of crisis without any formal education base for this decision making. Feminist ethics (the philosophical stance that articulates that women's moral experience is worthy of respect and disallows women's subordination) (Becker LB, Becker CB, eds. Feminist ethics. In: Encyclopedia of Ethics. New York: Routledge Press; 2001) requires that healthcare decisions be based on education, context, and particular situations. The purpose of this article is to examine the current content of typical prenatal care and education and to suggest an additional educational component to prenatal care-education of women about infant viability and the planning of future decisions if a nonviable or critically ill newborn is delivered. A prenatal discussion and parental/family directive is suggested.