This discussion concerns the ethical aspects of decisions regarding the various options of place, attendant and method for the actual delivery of infants. It focuses on the moral claims of childbearing women and fetuses and the roles of health care providers and society at large during the brief, but significant, transitional period between the state of pregnancy and the state of separate parent-child relations. The author's thesis is divided into two major components. The first component is that certain alternatives to what has become the typical U.S. childbirth experience are, under appropriate circumstances, safe and provide benefits which justify their protection as childbirth options. This factual conclusion, which has ethical significance, is based on literature review and a comparison of the potential risks and benefits of each of a number of childbirth alternatives. The major alternatives compared are home birth versus hospital birth, midwife attended versus physician attended birth, and non-interventionistic versus technology assisted birth techniques. The second component of the author's thesis is a philosophically reasoned conclusion that prospective parents have a morally justified position as the final decision makers with regard to options for their childbirth experience, with only two exceptions in which their decision may be rightfully overridden. These two cases would be those in which the parent was adequately established as incompetent and those in which positive harm to the fetus/infant could be demonstrated. This conclusion is based on the author's particular, expounded interpretation of the fundamental ethical motifs of beneficence, autonomy and justice in relation to specific ethical issues of childbirth. The specific issues discussed include: the value of the fetus, proxy representation, parental autonomy, child abuse, the role of the state in parent-child conflicts of interest, and the role of physicians at birth.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

James W. Walters

Second Advisor

Charles W. Teel, Jr.

Third Advisor

David R. Larson

Fourth Advisor

Elmar P. Sakala

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Labor; Ethics, Medical; Delivery of Health Care; Delivery



Page Count

v; 108

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives