Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 31 (3):340-350 (2003)

Martin Perlmutter
College of Charleston
The treatment of pregnant women addicted to drugs provides an especially important and illustrative example of how political and popular demands can successfully challenge professional ethical norms associated with clinical medicine — norms such as confidentiality, patient autonomy, and the right to consent to and to refuse treatment. One increasingly popular policy approach is to limit patient autonomy by coercing women in an attempt to change their behavior, either by involuntary civil commitment or by imprisoning them for drug abuse or child neglect. Thirty-five states have criminally prosecuted women for substance abuse or alcohol use during pregnancy. Other states aggressively use involuntary civil commitment as a means to protect the yet-to-be-born from harm during pregnancy. Medical professionals have been forced to participate in these programs by mandatory reporting requirements.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2003.tb00098.x
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