Looking Within
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From Basic Bioethics

Looking Within

A Sociocultural Examination of Fetoscopy

By Deborah Blizzard

An ethnographic study of fetoscopy that considers both the broader cultural context of this high-risk obstetrical procedure and the patient's individual experience.





An ethnographic study of fetoscopy that considers both the broader cultural context of this high-risk obstetrical procedure and the patient's individual experience.

In Looking Within, Deborah Blizzard examines the high-risk in utero surgery known as fetoscopy, considering it as both cutting-edge medical technology and as a sociocultural construction of patients, their social networks, and medical providers. She looks at the way individual experiences shape these procedures and how fetoscopy affects individuals (both patients and providers) on a personal, emotional level. Based on an eleven-month ethnographic study of the fetoscopy practice at a community-based hospital and further interviews with former patients, Looking Within offers a vivid picture of the sometimes conflicted, often desperate, and always emotional lives of those undergoing fetoscopy, and challenges current assumptions about normal and appropriate pregnancy experiences. To convey the complex reality of fetoscopy, Blizzard draws from the experiences of the real patients she interviewed for the book to present the fictional case of Melinda and Joe, taking them through the entire process, from diagnosis to decision to outcome. She then discusses the emergence of fetoscopy as an accepted form of high-risk obstetrical care, how fetoscopy programs are established at hospitals, and why otherwise healthy women consent to surgery. Blizzard examines the use of fetoscopy in single-fetus and in twin pregnancies, looking at how religion, culture, society, and medical science inform any understanding of who or what is in utero (a baby? a tumor? a mass?). She also discusses definitions of loss and success, and the narratives patients and their social networks construct to make sense of them. Looking Within will help physicians and nurses improve the development and delivery of fetoscopy procedures, help patients understand this new technology, and help scholars evaluate fetoscopy's bioethical, social, and cultural implications.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262026161 272 pp. | 9 in x 6 in


$21.00 X ISBN: 9780262527866 272 pp. | 9 in x 6 in


  • A vivid and compelling portrait of life and death, love and loss, anguished choices, and multiple meanings on a shifting frontier of reproductive medicine, Looking Within situates the wondrous and troubling technology of fetoscopy firmly within a social context. At once informative, critical, and deeply empathetic, this book demands that any assessment of the promises and the dangers of this technology be informed by insights from women's lives.

    Janelle S. Taylor

    Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

  • Blizzard's sensitive and fascinating ethnography explains the risks and rewards of fetoscopy in riveting and sometimes heartbreaking detail. Her obvious respect and affection for the clinicians, women, and families who undergo this little-known procedure mark Looking Within as a welcome addition to the burgeoning scholarship on reproductive imaging technologies and fetal politics in the clinic.

    Lynn M. Morgan

    Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College

  • Looking Within presents a deft analysis of fetoscopy, an emergent technology hyped as the salvation of 'miracle babies' which is actually an attempt to save dying fetuses. Through her beautifully written and thoughtful ethnography of the emergencies that bring pregnant women and their supporters to one US hospital, Blizzard reveals the deep emotional and expert technical work that ground this controversial intervention. Blizzard conveys both the gravity and hope through which health care providers, researchers, and potential parents all enter the operating theater, and cope with its consequences. This is an excellent contribution to science and technology studies as well as to the anthropology of reproduction.

    Rayna Rapp

    Department of Anthropology, New York University

  • In this most visual of eras, what bioethical issues are at play when doctors 'scope' the fetus? In what is the first comprehensive study of fetoscopy, Deborah Blizzard's ethnography gives a stimulating look at the many meanings of this transgressive and transformative medical technology.

    Susan Squier

    author, Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine

  • This book is insightful, compelling, analytically rigorous, and politically relevant. It forms a complex, rich portrait of fetal medical technologies in the late twentieth/early twenty-first century. Looking Within will be a major contribution to feminist studies of reproduction, medical sociology, medical anthropology, bioethics, history of medicine, and science, technology, and society studies. It also will be relevant to a popular audience interested in women's health, reproduction, and medical technologies.

    Monica J. Casper

    Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University