How the death of a pregnant teenager has been manipulated

The case of Rosaura Almonte, pregnant teenager (16 years old) from the Dominican Republic who died of acute leukaemia after having been denied an abortion, has been widely reported on social media.  Her situation is being used to promote the legalisation of abortion in the country and as such, in our opinion, merits a broader reflection, since Rosaura’s story is undoubtedly the subject of objective manipulation in several media.

The pregnant teenager medical history

But let’s take one thing at a time. Firstly, we need to briefly summarise the young woman’s medical history, which is essential in order to make our ethical assessment. The history of course may not be as complete as it should be, medically speaking, since we only have information reported by social media.

As mentioned, Rosaura was a 16-year-old girl who was seven weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with acute leukaemia (type not specified) on 12th July 2012.  A few days later, the possibility of an abortion was raised, arguing that it could aid the patient’s recovery; however, it was not performed, as abortion is banned in the Dominican Republic. Naturally, doctors then thought of giving her chemotherapy, which apparently was initially dismissed so as not to harm the health of the foetus. This however does not always occur, because chemotherapy used in the first trimester of pregnancy increases the risk of abortion, foetal death and malformations in only 10% to 20% of cases (Journal of Clinical Oncology, 30 November 2015). Generally speaking, the foetus is particularly vulnerable to developing teratogenic problems when the chemotherapy is applied between week 2 and week 8 of pregnancy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.