Critical discourse analysis on the influence of media commentary on fatal fetal anomaly in Ireland

Critical discourse analysis on the influence of media commentary on fatal fetal anomaly in Ireland

Ms Stacey Power (1), Dr Sarah Meaney (1,2), Dr Keelin O’Donoghue (1)

(1) Pregnancy Loss Research Group, The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT), University College Cork, Ireland (2) National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, University College Cork, Ireland

Fatal Fetal Anomaly (FFA) has generated international media attention as termination of pregnancy (TOP) for FFA was legislated for, for the first time in Ireland. Media offers an insight into health-related information available to the public. Media has the power to represent social topics in a particular way and effects are of particular relevance where a certain opinion or influence are intended by political or social stakeholders This study aimed to examine how FFA, TOP for FFA and perinatal palliative care (PPC) information were framed in Irish published media.

A critical discourse analysis, which examines the relations between discourse and social and cultural phenomena was implemented. Shirazi’s framework facilitated an objective analysis to facilitate interpretation and understanding of socially produced meanings. A broadsheet and online journal, with daily outputs and both having a daily readership in excess of 300,000 were chosen. An online search of FFA, PPC and TOP for FFA was undertaken.

Dated from 2012 to 2017, 130 articles were identified. Themes of power and politics, international influence, ethical dilemmas and emotional appeal were embedded in the discourse, creating political influence and emotionally appealing to the reader to influence perceptions and views. The use of different terminology e.g. ‘FFA’ versus ‘life-limiting condition’ and the word ‘fetus’ versus ‘baby’ were evident throughout the results. Terminology were chosen by different ideological perspectives in attempts to create varying contexts and support arguments.

This study highlights misrepresentations in the information delivered to the public, particularly in relation to supports available to women who receive a diagnosis of a FFA. Language is not neutral emphasising the importance of analysing the health information being delivered to the public and to those responsible for change in health service provision on controversial social issues.

Ethics Statement
Ethical approval for this study was granted by the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals (Ref. No: ECM 4 (q) 050917).

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