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Submitted by: Elizabeth on  5/13/2010
Answered by: Fr. Frank Pavone
Topic: Ectopic pregnancy
I am an oncology nurse and was asked to give methotrexate for an ectopic pregnancy on another floor since only oncology nurses can give chemotherapeutic drugs. I believe the pregnancy was tubal. Needless to say I refused because I was unsure of the morality of it. I do not know the entire patient situation since the patient was on another floor. Could you please explain the morality of this act according to the church's teaching. I do not think the mother's life was in danger at this particular time. Thanks and God bless you. P.S. I work at a catholic hospital
There is more than one medical way of handling an ectopic pregnancy. The relevant moral question is whether the method or action is in fact a killing of the child. If so, that is a direct abortion, which is never permissible for any reason. "Direct means that the destruction of the child is willed as the end or the means to another end. Sometimes ectopic pregnancies are handled this way, killing the child but leaving the tube intact. Such an action is morally wrong.

However, if what is done is that the damaged portion of the tube is removed because of the threat it poses to the mother, that is not a direct abortion, even if the child dies. What is done is the same thing that would be done if the tube were damaged from some other cause. The mother is not saved by the death of the child but by the removal of the tube. Because the death of the child in this case is a side effect which is not intended, and because the saving of the mother's life is not brought about by the death of the child, such a removal of the damaged portion of the tube is morally permissible. The ethical rule that applies here is called the Principle of the Double Effect.

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