Should Hospitals Test Pregnant Women for Drug Use Without Their Consent?

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Should hospitals test pregnant women for drug use without their consent? Hospitals, during their normal course of treatment should test pregnant women for drugs of any type, whether legal or not. Of course, the patient should be informed of such testing, but consent should not be required. Findings of illegal drugs should be used to educate and treat the mother for an addiction rather than informing law enforcement of such an activity. Hospitals are in the business of treating people’s ailments and promoting health. Reporting of illegal drug use should be left to law enforcement. An exception to the rule is if the illegal activity is personally witnessed by hospital staff. In cases of pregnancy, the hospital’s duty and obligation is to both the mother and unborn child. In a best case scenario, both mother and child are in excellent health and the mother is abstaining from any harmful substances, regardless of its legality. In cases that are less than best, the mother is placing her child at great risk. The ultimate risk is obviously death of the unborn child prior to term. Infants that have an exposure to drugs suffer from many ailments, some of which are permanent. Such ailments include seizures, tremors, excessive sweating, low birth weight, retardation, bone and skeletal defects, infections, missing or deformed limbs and social disorders to list a few. The hospital’s moral obligation is immediately to the mother and child but must also weigh the possible weight that society must bear when a child of a chemically dependent mother is born. Specifically here, of an illegally chemically dependent mother. Typically, drug users have limited education, possess limited working skills and are frequently unemployed. These factors can put a strain on government in providing services to sustain them, i.e. welfare and public medical benefits. Additionally, the child would also be a burden because government will likely provide services to sustain them and...
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