Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 2015
Timothy P. Collins, MD
On the Morality of Risk-Reducing Surgery
Possession of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation puts a woman at very high risk of developing breast and ovarian carcinoma at an early age. One treatment option is surgical removal of the target organs—breasts, ovaries, and fallopian tubes—before the malignancy develops. This risk-reduction surgery has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood that a woman will develop one of these cancers. This paper argues that such surgeries do not violate Catholic moral principles, but can be justified using the principles of double effect and totality and integrity. The paper does not recommend or endorse any specific treatment option. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 15.1 (Spring 2015): 75–89.