Opinion: Listen: A pediatric doctor on the life-or-death decisions some prospective parents must make

Christopher Hartnick never expected his work as a doctor to intersect with political discussions about abortion and the right of pregnant people to make choices about their own bodies. Yet as a pediatric ear, nose, and throat physician who specializes in treating babies and children who have difficulty breathing, he’s had up-close looks at how prospective parents make life-or-death decisions over the course of a pregnancy.

This week on the “First Opinion Podcast,” Hartnick discusses a risky procedure performed at birth for which parents must choose, at multiple stages, whether to prioritize the mother’s life or the child’s.

“When we describe risk and benefit, it’s such a personal decision,” said Hartnick, who is a physician at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School. “We’re assigning risk to the mother, and she is assigning risk to herself and thinking about that in parallel or in contrast to the risk to her child.”


This conversation is based on Hartnick’s essay, “‘Whose life do I prioritize?’ A choice no parent wants to make.”

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Source: STAT