Paternal consent in prenatal research: ethical aspects

Paternal consent in prenatal research: ethical aspects
Mats Johansson, Göran Hermerén, Nils-Eric Sahlin
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 10 August 2019; pp 1–7
Open Access
The role of mothers in prenatal research has been discussed extensively. Significantly less work has been done on the father’s role. In this article, focusing on ethical issues, we seek to redress this imbalance. Examining the father’s position in research conducted on pregnant women, we ask whether or not paternal consent ought to be required in addition to that of the pregnant woman. Having distinguished between different concepts of father and mother, we proceed by giving an overview of the reasons for requiring consent of the woman who is carrying the child. We then examine which of these reasons apply to the biological father, and show that some of them are relevant to the father. The case, roughly speaking, revolves around privacy issues, the father’s future legal responsibilities, and the likelihood that he will care about the health and wellbeing of his future child. These factors in the decision problem should all be recognized, as should the fact that they can in principle be trumped by other considerations.

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