Rapid qualitative review of ethical issues surrounding healthcare for pregnant women or women of reproductive age in epidemic outbreaks
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AbstractThis article describes, categorizes, and discusses the results of a rapid literature review aiming to provide an overview of the ethical issues and corresponding solutions surrounding pregnancies in epidemic outbreaks. The review was commissioned by the World Health Organization to inform responses to the Zika outbreak that began in 2015. Due to the urgency of the response efforts that needed to be informed by the literature search, a rapid qualitative review of the literature published in PubMed was conducted. The search and analysis were based on the operationalization of 3 key concepts: ethics, pregnancy, and epidemic outbreak. Ethical issues and solutions were interpreted within a principlist framework. The data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The search identified 259 publications, of which the full text of 23 papers was read. Of those, 20 papers contained a substantive part devoted to the topic of interest and were therefore analyzed further. We clustered the ethical issues and solutions around 4 themes: uncertainty, harms, autonomy/liberty, and effectiveness. Recognition of the identified ethical issues and corresponding solutions can inform and improve response efforts, public health planning, policies, and decision-making, as well as the activities of medical staff and counselors who practice before, during, or after an epidemic outbreak that affects pregnant women or those of reproductive age. The rapid review format proved to be useful despite its limited data basis and expedited review process.