Mothers and Midwives

The Ethical Journey


  • Faye Thompson, PhD, FRCNA, MNSt, DipApSc(Nr Ed), Lecturer, Applied Ethics Research Concentration, School of Humanities and Human Services, Carseldine Campus, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia; Nurse Researcher, Mater Mothers Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia

This U.K. book is written by Faye Thompson, who has thirty years experience as a midwife and educator. She studied philosophy and the humanities as an undergraduate in Australia, and now lectures on health care ethics. As a feminist, she seeks to reunite morality and personal interest so that the woman is not subordinated in women's health and childbirth practices.

From this experience, she offers a framework of ethics specific to midwifery and derived from midwifery practice that takes ethical discourse beyond current literature, proposing strategies for ethical practice based on findings arising out of the profession itself.
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Book information

  • Published: November 2003
  • ISBN: 978-0-7506-8776-8

Table of Contents

Glossary of terms and context of analysis
Glossary of terms
Context of the analysis

CHAPTER 1: The need for a midwifery ethic of practice

The metaphor
Looking for the pool of ethics: a personal journey
Ways of seeing: ways of acting

The social construction of our world
The nature of 'practice'

CHAPTER 2: On the sealed highway - mainstream ethics, medicalisation and midwifery

The nature of midwifery practice
The influence of moral philosophy, and nursing ethics

Moral philosophy and mainstream ethical frameworks available to midwives
Why midwives would be turning to mainstream ethical frameworks

CHAPTER 3: The false trail - a critique of bioethics and the problem-solving approach for midwifery ethics

Bioethics - its development and critics (the pool of ethics)

Casuistry and context
Quandary or dilemma-based ethics
A critique of the normative, dilemmic/problem-solving approach of bioethics for midwifery
When the situation is stripped of context
When the subject is depersonalised
The abstract nature of principles
What is ethically 'good'?
Prior ethical practice , character, virtues and relationships

CHAPTER 4: Midwifery's detour through nursing ethics - a critique of professional codes and influences that shape the midwifery ethics discourse

Traditions of a professional practice, institutionalisation, and application of a code
a critique of ethical codes

Perceived strengths of codes
Perceived weaknesses of codes
How ethical discourse in midwifery is shaped
Educational curricula and their ethical orientation
The workplace setting and institutional influence
Text books, journals and conference presentations: their ethical orientation

CHAPTER 5: Off the beaten track - feminist virtue ethics and midwifery

Values and assumptions of feminist theory - epistemology and ontology
A feminist approach to ethics in midwifery

Virtue Ethics - context, character and relationship
Narratives, identity and traditions
The public and private
Normal/Abnormal - The impact of linguistics
Metaphors in childbirth reveal practice orientation

CHAPTER 6: A conducted tour or independent travel? examining underlying assumptions and values

Owners of the original knowledge

Profiles of those women telling their experiences
The informant-researcher relationship
Constructing consensual meanings
Mothers' and midwives' shared values
Power in relationships
Power 'over' - exploitative, manipulative
Power 'for' - nutritive
Power 'with' - integrative

CHAPTER 7: Facing obstacles along the way - mothers' and midwives' narratives of unethical childbirth practices

Institutional dominance

Lack of self-determination
Fear, Safety, Mortality-Morbidity (negativity of attitude)
Unsupportive of the woman
Procedure-oriented approach; 'system workers'
Values conflict
Workplace/service provider versus personal/professional midwifery ethics
Not valuing individuals

CHAPTER 8: Going to a comfortable place - the ethical voice of mothers and midwives

'Being with' woman

Supporting the woman
Knowing the woman
Woman's comfort: security, 'safe' for the woman
Ways of seeing
Metaphors used by mothers and midwives
Personal transformation

CHAPTER 9: Checking our course - values and philosophical foundations of the midwifery profession

The philosophy and theory behind midwifery practice

Ways of knowing: midwifery's epistemology
Ethical theories and principles 'incorporated'
Ways of seeing and construction: orientation
Practitioner definitions of midwifery practice
Practitioner identified philosophy of midwifery practice: values and beliefs

CHAPTER 10: Plotting our practice - values and philosophical foundations of the birthing environment

The power of language

Birth language
A concept analysis of normal labour
Practice decisions and conflict between work place and personal/professional ethics
The midwifery relationship


CHAPTER 11: The discourse of other travellers - literature on women's experiences

The birth: women's experiences
The midwife's approach: women's experiences


CHAPTER 12: Mapping a new ethic for midwives - from 'practice estate' to the pool and back, now a return journey travelled in tandem

The ethic of engagement - a midwifery ethic

The nature of engagement in ethical responses and relationships
The centrality of concepts which emerged from real life experience and literature, in an ethic of midwifery
Implications for practice and recommendations