Substance abuse by pregnant women: legal and ethical concerns

Aurora Affiliations

Nurse-Midwifery Center, Sinai Samaritan Medical Center


Court-ordered detention and prosecution of a pregnant woman for substance abuse is an unusual but increasing occurrence in the United States. At least 24 states have attempted to prosecute a pregnant woman on a variety of charges for suspected harm to the fetus. This article reviews the issues involved including personal autonomy duty of caregivers to women and fetuses, and ethical frameworks for discussion.

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