Background: Ethical care in maternity is fundamental to providing care that both prevents harm and does good, and yet, there is growing acknowledgement that disrespect and abuse routinely occur in this context, which indicates that current ethical frameworks are not adequate. Care ethics offers an alternative to the traditional biomedical ethical principles.
Research aim: The aim of the study was to determine whether a correlation exists between midwifery-led care and care ethics as an important first step in an action research project.
Research design: Template analysis was chosen for this part of the action research. Template analysis is a design that tests theory against empirical data, which requires pre-set codes.
Participants and context: A priori codes that represent midwifery-led care were generated by a stakeholder consultative group of nine childbearing women using nominal group technique, collected in Perth, Western Australia. The a priori codes were applied to a predesigned template with four domains of care ethics.
Ethical considerations: Ethics approval was granted by the Edith Cowan University research ethics committee REMS no. 2019-00296-Buchanan.
Findings: The participants generated eight a priori codes representing ethical midwifery care, such as: 1.1 Relationship with Midwife; 1.2 Woman-centred care; 2.1 Trust women’s bodies and abilities; 2.2. Protect normal physiological birth; 3.1. Information provision; 3.2. Respect autonomy; 4.1. Birth culture of fear (midwifery-led care counter-cultural) and 4.2. Recognition of rite of passage. The a priori codes were mapped to the care ethics template. The template analysis found that midwifery-led care does indeed demonstrate care ethics.
Discussion: Care ethics takes into consideration what principle-based bioethics have previously overlooked: relationship, context and power.
Conclusion: Midwifery-led care has been determined in this study to demonstrate care ethics, which suggest that further research is defensible with the view that it could be incorporated into the ethical codes and conduct for the midwifery profession.