Reproductive Health and Blurred Professional Boundaries
Women's Health Issues. 1996 Mar-Apr; 6(2): 89-96.
We recognize that many of the issues raised are not simple. Our proposal calls for the same thoughtful deliberation applied in other settings to be brought to bear on reproductive health care. Some have already tried alternative approaches. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a university hospital neonatologist and the district attorney have collaborated to create an alternative to sentencing program for women who are arrested for drug-related crimes and found to be both pregnant and drug addicted. Rather than proceed with criminal sanctions, these women are offered entry into a drug treatment program that is geared to families with young children and run by the pediatrics department. Here, the physician and the district attorney collaboratively responded in ways congruent with the professional integrity of each. In another example in Portland, Oregon, physicians, drug treatment providers, and child protective social service representatives cooperatively defeated a legislative proposal to mandatorily test and report pregnant women for illicit drug use and, instead, formed a task force to jointly develop state policy regarding the issue. Drug use, HIV infection, child abuse, and poverty are all cause for alarm. Yet it is critical that our frustration about these difficult problems not be translated into blaming individuals for "deviance," or into short-term inadequate responses. In developing policy we should consider the impact on the legal and ethical rights and obligations of both patient and physician. For every course, we should evaluate both immediate and long-term efficacy, the consequences for the doctor-patient relationship, and the consequences for medical integrity. In the midst of the present regulatory and fiscal turmoil affecting health care, we urge physicians to be careful and deliberate in the policies they embrace and the actions they take.
Abortion; Aids; Aids Serodiagnosis; Child Abuse; Children; Confidentiality; Contraception; Counseling; Consent; Disclosure; Drug Abuse; Females; Health; Health Care; Indigents; Informed Consent; Injuries; Law; Law Enforcement; Legal Aspects; Mandatory Programs; Mandatory Reporting; Mandatory Testing; Newborns; Patient Advocacy; Patient Care; Pediatrics; Physician Patient Relationship; Physician's Role; Physicians; Pregnant Women; Prenatal Injuries; Public Health; Poverty; Rights; Reporting; State Interest;
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