Ethical issues and addiction

Binta Lambert, Melissa Scheiner, Deborah Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The epidemic of substance abuse continues to pose a significant challenge to clinicians nationwide. Although there is a tendency to simply associate drug abuse with poverty, the problem affects every social stratum gender and race; and pregnant women are no exception. Caring for pregnant, substance-using women and their infants presents complex legal and ethical issues. Debate is ongoing about whether criminal penalties should be imposed on women based solely on their use of alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy. Furthermore, controversies persist about the rights and wishes of pregnant women versus the interests of their fetuses. For health professionals, conflict arises when the pregnant woman chooses behaviors that have the potential to harm the developing fetus. The ethical dilemma arises from competing autonomy-based and beneficence-based obligations to the maternal-fetal dyad. This chapter explores the ethics-based conflicts in the delivery of health care to drug abusing pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-174
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Addictive Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010


  • Ethics
  • Maternal drug addiction
  • Maternal-fetal conflict
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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