Viewing the image? Ultrasound examination during abortion preparations, ethical challenges
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNursing Ethics. 2021. 10.1177/09697330211051009
During preparation for early abortion in Norway, an ultrasound examination is usually performed to determine gestation and viability. This article aims to provide a deeper understanding of women’s and health care personnel’s (HCP) experiences with ultrasound viewing during abortion preparation in the first trimester. Qualitative in-depth interviews with women who had been prepared for early abortion and focus group interviews with HCP from gynaecological units were carried out. A hermeneutic-phenomenological analysis, inspired by van Manen, was chosen. Thirteen women who were pregnant and considering abortion in their first trimester and 20 HCP, namely, 19 registered nurses and one medical doctor, were recruited from gynaecological units at six hospitals. The study was approved by the ethics committee (2014/1276). The essential meaning structure of ‘autonomy under pressure’ consisted of two themes that expressed the different experiences of both the women and the HCP, namely, expectations versus precautions and choice versus protection. The women and HCP expressed different attitudes before the consultation that affected their experiences of the ultrasound examination. While the women had expectations of a clarification based on their choice to either see or not see the ultrasound image, HCP seemed to be more concerned with predetermined rules that they believed would protect the women. Consequently, the basis for dialogue was not optimal, and women’s autonomy was under pressure. Health care personnel are ethically challenged during preabortion ultrasound examinations. Meeting the individual woman’s needs and respecting her autonomy during preparation for abortion requires sensitivity, involvement, and dialogue skills by health personnel. According to the woman’s desire to be informed about the possibility of viewing the image during the abortion preparations, a dialogue that is focused in this direction should arise before the examination.