A Clinical and Ethical Dilemma: Expectant Management for Ectopic Pregnancy with a Vital Fetus in a Low-Resource Setting
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AbstractBackground: Guidelines recommend the prompt surgical removal of any ectopic pregnancy (EP) in the presence of a vital embryo. This treatment impacts future fertility, particularly in low-resource settings where access to assisted reproductive techniques is limited. In addition, growing evidence is reporting live births after conservative management of initially undiagnosed abdominal pregnancies. Therefore, the discussion on the acceptability of expectant management in selected cases has been recently raised. Case: We present and discuss the case of a woman with vital first trimester EP who refused surgical treatment at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, Freetown, Sierra Leone. She was initially diagnosed with a 12 week pregnancy located in the left adnexal region without hemoperitoneum. She refused both surgical treatment and hospital admission and did not come back to the hospital for antenatal care until 26 weeks of gestational age. Therefore, she was admitted and finally delivered, at 34 weeks of gestation, a 1.9 kg healthy baby which was alive. To disentangle the potential conflict between the ethical principles of medical treatment’s beneficence and the patient’s autonomy, we provide an update on counselling for a patient with early vital EP in a resource-limited setting and discuss the knowledge gap in this area. Conclusions: Limited access to fertility treatment in low- and middle-income countries may justify the discussion of expectant management as an option in selected cases of uncomplicated vital EP.