As stated in the readings the question of punishing a pregnant woman for exposing her fetus to risk is something that our judicial system has been dealing with for quite some time. Based on a person’s ethical and legal belief the answers to this question would differ. I think that we all can agree with being part of the healthcare industry what we want is women to participate in behaviors and activities that generate a birth of a healthy child. Many people believe that woman should be held accountable for the well-being of their unborn fetus.
Ethically this is understandable but regrettably, this is not the same for all pregnant woman. There are women who have no education, financial resources, or access to care which cause them to feel differently towards their unborn fetus. Another problem is maternal drug use that causes horrible problems for the fetus and the birthing mother. These issues are all part of the state’s claim of neglect of a fetus or child. The number of pregnant mothers who were using drugs was so bad in 1989 that several of thousands of children were deemed to be crack babies. The amount of drug-dependent children forced legislation to arrest Cornelia Whitner, a resident of South Carolina who used crack during her pregnancy which caused her baby to be born with cocaine metabolites. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison after pleading guilty. As a result, Medical University of South Carolina implemented a program that required pregnant women found using drugs were ordered to get treatment and prenatal care or face criminal prosecution under the state child abuse laws.
There are legal and ethical issues from both perspectives of this case. According to Cornelia Whitner, her right to privacy was violated. This claim brings up an issue of autonomy where recognizing the right of a person to make one’s decisions about their healthcare. If we take autonomy into consideration, then Whitner has the right to do as she pleases with her body while pregnant. In the case of Whitner, the state has the right to intervene since the non-maleficence principle was violated. Which requires that a caregiver avoid causing harm. Whitner had the intent to cause harm to her unborn fetus with her drug use by doing so she is violating the principle of beneficence. The principle of beneficence is the act of doing well or showing compassion toward helping others. Whitner is considered the caregiver of the unborn fetus and her actions show us that she is not being compassionate for her unborn fetus by using drugs, in turn, causing risk to it. On the legal side of things, the state has a concern for the fetus and the mother’s wellbeing. The fetus cannot defend itself which forces the state to believe that it is their ethical and legal obligation to make the best decision for the unborn child. As a healthcare administrator, I must make sure that decisions being made were in the best interest of both the mother and fetus.
An ethical and law-abiding decision must be placed regarding the well-being of both mother and child. The health of both the mother and fetus are contingent on one another that is why getting good healthcare is important to them both. I do agree that the state should take legal action against the mother for causing harm to her fetus, but I do not believe that the courts must make sure that there is an adequate resource for rehabilitation. According to Kaebnick, (2016), the intent of the law was to get women into treatment, but the lack of support such as transportation and child care made it difficult for women to get the necessary treatment. There also was the issue of no availability of women-only treatment facilities for substance-abusing pregnant women located anywhere in the state. The state was ethical in their decisions to intervene for the well-being of the fetus, but it seems that they were unethical in their actions when it came to the provision of proper treatment for Whitner. If I had to tackle a difficult issue such as the one with Whitner I would work together with stakeholders and fellow hospital members to endure that we had a drug abuse treatment center that was open for pregnant women. There would be social workers that would be placed to work side by side with these women for them to have the skills and experience for assisting the drug-dependent woman. The facility would not only be open for a woman during their pregnancy but thereafter as well. The addiction process may not just be during their pregnancy it may take a long time to work with them through their dependency that is why providing help during and after their pregnancy would be vital.
The issues are not fixed from one day to another it is something that needs to be monitored and worked with at close hand. The whole goal of the facility would be to get people clean and sober to continue their lives towards complete sobriety.