Author(s): Williams C
It is argued that innovative health technologies (IHTs) may be changing the roles of both patients and health practitioners, and raising new issues, including ethical, legal and social dilemmas. This paper focuses on the innovative area of fetal medicine. All fetal treatment necessitates accessing the fetus through the pregnant woman's body, and non-surgical treatments have long been a part of pregnancy care. However, recent developments in this area, including the increasing routinisation of sophisticated antenatal ultrasound screening and the introduction of treatments including fetal surgery, may mark a shift in this specialty. The paper explores such shifts from the perspectives of medical and midwifery practitioners working in two Fetal Medicine Units. It examines the apparent effects of the orientation of fetal medicine on prevalent conceptualisations of the maternal-fetal relationship, and some of the consequences of this. It is argued that new forms of uncertainty, including complex risk and diagnostic information, and uncertain prognostic predictions set within the rhetoric of non-directive counselling and women's choice, are leading to unprecedented ethical dilemmas within this area. More widespread debate about such potential dilemmas needs to take place before, rather than following their introduction.