The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 18, Issue 3, Autumn 2018

Jonathan Scrafford, Lisa Gilbert
Pages 487-500

Opportunistic Salpingectomy during Cesarean Section

Medical literature on the protective effects of salpingectomy (surgical removal of the fallopian tubes) against ovarian cancer has challenged Catholic health care institutions to reexamine policies that prohibit tubal sterilization at the time of cesarean section. Salpingectomy performed for a woman whose fallopian tubes are known or suspected to have a serious and present pathology—risk-reducing salpingectomy—is morally justifiable as a therapeutic intervention. However, salpingectomy performed at the time of another medically indicated procedure, such as cesarean section, on an otherwise fertile woman whose fallopian tubes are presumed to be healthy—opportunistic salpingectomy—constitutes direct sterilization and fails to meet the conditions of double effect. Moreover, until magisterial guidance clarifies the right application of Catholic teaching to the specific question of opportunistic salpingectomy, Catholic health care institutions should, out of prudential judgment and to avoid scandal, avoid establishing institution policies that permit the practice.