Fetal Abnormality and Its Moral Status

Table of Contents


The determination of the moral status of a fetus is integral in protecting it during pregnancy and providing appropriate prenatal care. Numerous ethical theories assign different levels of moral standing on a fetus, according to the health condition and the duration of growth. A congenital abnormality is one of the factors that reduce the moral status of a fetus and support the choice of abortion (Patil, Dode, & Ahirrao, 2014).

Notably, a fetus with abnormality has no moral status, while that of a normal one has an increasing moral status as it gains independence from the mother. In this view, the analysis of the case study shows that participants applied different theories in determining the moral status of the fetus. Therefore, the case analysis aims to outline nursing theories and explain their application in the determination of the moral status of the fetus, as well as the identification of the most relevant theory.

Nursing Theories Applied

The analysis of the case study indicates that cognitive properties, human properties, and related theories have been applied in the determination of the moral status of the fetus. Dr. Wilson applies the cognitive properties theory because he evaluates the ability of the fetus to live a normal life. Crary (2016) holds that a fetus has limited moral status because its existence is dependent on the presence of a mother. Since the fetus is dependent on the mother, its ability to grow and develop into an independent human, leading, a quality life is critical for its survival.

Jessica, Marco, and Maria applied human properties theory in the determination of the moral status of the fetus in the case study. According to Crary (2016), human properties theory postulates that an embryo, fetus, and adult have the same moral status because they have similar properties that differentiate humans from non-humans. Jessica and Marco perceive the fetus as a creation of the union in marriage, whereas Maria believes that it is a divine gift.

Maria, Jessica, Marco, Dr. Wilson, and the priest applied the relationship theory in determining the moral status of the fetus. Social networks and matrices play a significant role in influencing society to protect and take care of the vulnerable members of the community (Crary, 2016). In the social setup of the fetus, Maria plays the role of a guardian while Jessica and Marco provide parental care. Dr. Wilson gives expert advice, whereas the priest offers spiritual guidance.

The Influence of Each Theory

The cognitive properties theory influences Dr. Wilson to recommend abortion as a reasonable medical intervention. By analyzing diagnostic information, Dr. Wilson observes that the fetus has a 25% probability of getting Down syndrome, which has a negative impact on cognitive properties. In this perspective, Dr. Wilson foresees that the fetus would have a cognitive disability and live a pitiable quality life. Moreover, lack of arms complicates the health condition of the fetus, making Marco and Jessica abhor fears concerning its existence. Therefore, the cognitive properties theory influence Dr. Wilson and persuade Marco and Jessica to choose abortion as the most reasonable action that would not only prevent the fetus from suffering but also relieve them the burden of bringing up a disabled child.

The human properties theory persuades Jessica, Marco, and Maria to recommend pro-life action. According to the human properties theory, a fetus has a moral status irrespective of its health condition (Crary, 2016). As parents, Jessica and Marco consider that the fetus has moral status because they are responsible for conception and pregnancy. Jessica and Maria believe that life is a sacred gift from God, and they have to protect and nurture it with the help of divine assistance.

The relationship theory influences Marco, Jessica, and Maria to support the protection of the fetus in the society that dignifies life. As responsible parents, Marco and Jessica are willing to sacrifice their limited resources in ensuring that the fetus has a promising future. In the social circle, Maria performs her role as a guardian because she has a noble duty of advising and guiding Jessica and Marco to overcome numerous challenges in life. Therefore, the relationship theory supports the pro-life action for everyone seeks to protect and take care of the fetus based on its position in society.

The Most Relevant Theory

The cognitive properties theory is the most relevant in determining the moral status because it considers the health condition of the fetus. Since the fetus lacks arms and is likely to develop Down syndrome, it has an increased predisposition to both cognitive and physical disability. Greasley (2017) argues abortion gives the mother autonomy to decide what is best for her fetus, provided it is rational and medically permissible. In this case, Dr. Wilson recommends abortion as the best medical intervention after analyzing and predicting the cognitive abilities of the fetus. Hence, the cognitive properties theory predicts that both the fetus and the parents would lead a poor quality due to over-dependence and increased costs of care.


The analysis of the case study demonstrates that cognitive properties, human properties, and relationship theories apply in the determination of the moral status of the fetus. The cognitive properties theory supports abortion because it perceives that the fetus has no moral status due to its health condition. On the contrary, the human properties theory and the relationship theory support life since they assign a significant moral status to the fetus. However, the most relevant theory to this case study is the cognitive theory because it considers the quality of life and saves the fetus and family from great distress.


Crary, A. (2016). Inside ethics: On the demands of moral thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Greasley, K. (2017). Arguments about abortion: Personhood, morality, and law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Patil, A. B., Dode, P., & Ahirrao, A. (2014). Medical ethics in abortion. Medical Ethics. Indian Journal of Clinical Practice, 25(6), 544-548.

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