Medicine Studies

, Volume 4, Issue 1–4, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Paternal-Fetal Harm and Men’s Moral Duty to Use Contraception: Applying the Principles of Nonmaleficence and Beneficence to Men’s Reproductive Responsibility

  • Lisa Campo-Engelstein


Discussions of reproductive responsibility generally draw heavily upon the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence. However, these principles are typically only applied to women due to the incorrect belief that only women can cause fetal harm. The cultural perception that women are likely to cause fetal and child harm is reflected in numerous social norms, policies, and laws. Conversely, there is little public discussion of men and fetal and child harm, which implies that men do not (or cannot) cause such harm. My goal in this paper is to begin to fill the void in the academic literature about men’s reproductive responsibility by highlighting the health-related, economic, and social harms men can cause to potential fetuses and children and then examining what it would mean to hold them responsible for preventing these harms. Applying the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence to men, I conclude that men have a moral duty to use contraception if their behavior—past, current, or future—could harm the potential fetuses and children who result from their unprotected sexual behavior.


Contraception Nonmaleficence Paternal-fetal harm Men Responsibility 



I'd like to thanks Lisa Schwartzman for reading earlier drafts of this paper. I'd also like to thank my anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alden March Bioethics Institute, Department of OBGYNAlbany Medical CollegeAlbanyUSA

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