LEGAL AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN MECONIUM TESTING FOR FETAL EXPOSURE TO ALCOHOL

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Bernard M Dickens

Keywords

Meconium, alcohol, fatty acid ethyl esters, ethics, legal duties, pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Abstract

In Canadian law, pregnant women are held to owe no enforceable duties of care to their children before birth, but healthcare providers may be held accountable once children are born alive for causing injuries prenatally. When children are born in hospitals, recovered meconium may be tested without consent, but there may be an ethical duty to inform mothers. Meconium belongs to the newborns, and mothers may be required to make decisions about its use in their children’s best interests. Proposals to test meconium from particular populations raise concern about stigmatization.

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