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Healthcare professionals' attitudes towards termination of pregnancy at viable stage.

  • Roets, Ellen1, 2
  • Dierickx, Sigrid1, 3
  • Deliens, Luc1, 3
  • Chambaere, Kenneth1, 3
  • Dombrecht, Laure1, 3
  • Roelens, Kristien2
  • Beernaert, Kim1, 3
  • 1 End-of-Life Care Research Group, Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent, Belgium. , (Belgium)
  • 2 Department of Obstetrics, Women's Clinic, University Hospital Ghent, Ghent, Belgium. , (Belgium)
  • 3 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. , (Belgium)
Published Article
Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Aug 02, 2020
DOI: 10.1111/aogs.13967
PMID: 32740906


Upon prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations, termination of pregnancy (TOP) may be an option, sometimes at a gestational age when the fetus is already viable (late TOP). We aimed to study attitudes towards late TOP of all tertiary healthcare professionals involved in late TOP practice. A mail survey was conducted among all physicians and paramedical professionals involved in late TOP decision-making in all eight centers with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Flanders, Belgium (N = 117). The questionnaire contained general and case-based attitude items. Response rate was 79%. Respondents were either physicians (51.1%) or paramedical professionals (49.9%). The composition of professionals involved in late TOP decision-making was heterogeneous between the eight centers. Late TOP was highly accepted in both lethal fetal conditions (100%) and serious (but not lethal) fetal conditions (95.6%). Where the fetus is healthy, 19.8% of respondents agreed with late TOP for maternal psychological problems and fewer respondents (13.2%) agreed with late TOP in the case of maternal socio-economic problems (P = .002). Physicians more often preferred feticide over neonatal palliative care in the case of non-lethal fetal conditions compared with paramedical professionals (68.1% vs 53.2%, P = .013). Almost nine out of ten respondents (89.1%) agreed that in the event of a serious (non-lethal) neonatal condition, administering drugs with the explicit intention to end neonatal life was acceptable. Behavioral intentions indicate that even in situations with an unclear diagnosis and unpredictable prognosis, 85.6% of professionals would still consider late TOP. Healthcare professionals practicing late TOP in Flanders, Belgium have a high degree of tolerance towards late TOP, irrespective of sociodemographic factors, and are demanding legislative change regarding active life-ending in the fetal and neonatal periods. Further research should explore the correlation of attitudes to late TOP with actual medical decisions taken in daily clinical practice. © 2020 Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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