Friday, February 05, 2016
Birth Defect Ethics, Are They as Simple as Black & White?
Quite often questions come to me, usually at night whilst in bed alone, save for the background music of Hans Zimmer that helps me drift off to sleep.
One such question, invoked another, they both kept me awake for most of the night as I mulled over possible answers, the most obvious answer, of course, would be jail time.
Here's what I was mulling over.
A husband and wife have a disagreement over treatment. Mrs Smith has recently been told that she is pregnant, she has also been diagnosed with depression and has been told by her physician that if left untreated it could harm her fetus. Mrs Smith believes the risk of taking antidepressants during pregnancy is too high, she has read stories that they can cause birth defects.
Her husband, Mr Smith, does not believe the risks are that high, he's read many published papers from academics that suggest antidepressant treatment will save the baby from becoming distressed inside the womb and depressed when born.
So, here's the dilemma. It's his child just as much as it is his wife's. They are at loggerheads over the decision to medicate - does the expectant mother have the final say?
This isn't the question that kept me awake.
Mr Smith, decides to treat his wife with antidepressants (without her knowledge... ergo, without her consent)
Every day he crushes two antidepressants into her dinner - he does so because he wants to protect his child from being distressed in the womb or being born depressed. Hey, he's read the literature and believes it to be true.
24 weeks later
Sadly, Mr and Mrs Smith are informed that the fetus has developed defects. Mrs Smith's OBGYN has informed them both that the fetus has developed a number of birth defects, namely; cardiac defects (heart), pulmonary defects (lung), neural-tube defects (brain and spinal cord). Chances of survival, at birth, he informs them, are very slim.
Mrs Smith, along with her husband, decide to abort the fetus, it's a heart-wrenching decision.
Shorty after the termination of his wife's pregnancy, Mr Smith comes clean and tells his wife that he had secretly been administering antidepressants into her food and now believes that the medication may have contributed to the birth defects in their child.
So, here's the two questions...
1. What legal action, if any, could Mrs Smith take against her husband?
2. What defence, if any, could Mr Smith use in a court of Law?
Be interesting to hear/read your comments on this one either via the comments section (below) or via my Twitter account (here) or Facebook Blog account (here)
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