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Pregnancy in Serious Illness: It’s Not Just Medical Decision Making

Schroeder, Karla, DNP, MHA, RN, ANP-BC, NE-BC; Miller, Casey, MSN, RN, ANP-BC; Shaw, Heather, GNP-BC; Hutton, Lynn, LCSW

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: June 2018 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 212–216
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000422
Ethics Series

Pregnancy in the presence of serious illness and treatment can create a moral and ethical struggle. There is little literature to provide an ethical framework for decision making when women become pregnant while receiving aggressive care for any serious illness. The family and care team often have moral distress as they provide support and are integrally involved in decision making. A case study is presented to describe a complicated patient scenario and how all involved can develop emotional, moral, and ethical struggles as care is delivered. In clinical cases where nurses feel that their own ethical and moral frameworks are either in conflict with patient, family, or health care provider decisions, or feel that patient and family wishes conflict with one another or the health care system, emotions and distress rise to the surface. In these situations, nurses can advocate for standard practice and to use an ethical framework for decision making, such as the 4-box method, to help decrease moral and ethical struggles as technology continues to advance in health care.

Karla Schroeder, DNP, MHA, RN, ANP-BC, NE-BC, is director, Palliative Medicine and Geriatrics, Patient Care Services, Stanford Health Care, California.

Casey Miller, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, is nurse practitioner, Mechanical Circulatory Device and Heart Transplant, Stanford Health Care, California.

Heather Shaw, GNP-BC, is manager, Palliative Care, Stanford Health Care, California.

Lynn Hutton, LCSW, is social worker, Palliative Care, Stanford Health Care, California.

Address correspondence to Karla Schroeder, DNP, MHA, RN, ANP-BC, NE-BC, Palliative Medicine and Geriatrics, Patient Care Services, Stanford Health Care, 300 Pasteur Dr, Stanford, CA 94305 (kschroeder@stanfordhealthcare.org).

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2018 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.