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Poverty and maternal mortality in Nigeria: towards a more viable ethics of modern medical practice

DOI: 10.1186/1475-9276-7-11

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Since high levels of poverty limit access to quality health care and consequently human development, this paper suggests ways of reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria. It emphasizes the importance of care ethics, an ethical orientation that seeks to rectify the deficiencies of medical practice in Nigeria, notably the problem of poor reproductive health services.Care ethics as an ethical orientation, attends to the important aspects of our shared lives. It portrays the moral agent (in this context the physician) as a self who is embedded in webs of relations with others (pregnant women). Also central to this ethical orientation is responsiveness in an interconnected network of needs, care and prevention of harm.This review concludes by stressing that many human relationships involve persons who are vulnerable, including pregnant women, dependent, ill and or frail, noting that the desirable moral response is that prescribed by care ethics, which thus has implications for the practice of medicine in Nigeria.Poverty exists when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs. These may be defined narrowly as "those needs necessary for survival"[1] or broadly as "those needs reflecting the prevailing standard of living in the community"[2]. Reproductive ill health is both a cause and consequence of poverty [3]. Sexual and reproductive health problems account for approximately 20 percent of the ill-health of women globally, and 14 percent of men due to lack of appropriate sexual and reproductive health services [4]. It is against this background that this review examines poverty as a major cause of maternal deaths in Nigeria. It offers an insight into the practice of medicine in Nigeria which is different from that of modern medicine because it falls short of the principle of showing care. The consequence of this is the uncaring attitude of many health care providers in the context of maternal care. It suggests ways of reducing maternal deaths in Nigeria, emphasizing

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