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Dilemma for the Nurse-Midwife


  • Ray Moseley PhD,

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    • Ray Moseley, PhD, is the Director of the Medical Humanities Program in the College of Medicine at the University of Florida and is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine.

  • Clarice Bell MD

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Clarice Bell, MD, is a family practice resident at Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Medical Humanities Program, Box J-222, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.


Prenatal screening for illegal drugs poses very complex ethical problems for the nurse-midwife who must make the decision whether to screen for illegal drugs and whether to report positive results to stare child abuse investigators. We argue that the results of prenatal screening for illegal drug use should not be used for determination of child abuse and that the nurse-midwife should not be required to report the results of these screens for illegal drugs to state child protection agencies. It is far from clear that required reporting offers any benefit to the fetus or future child, and there are serious ramifications of reporting for the fetus, the pregnant woman, and the nurse-midwifery profession. However, we do argue that prenatal screening for both illegal and legal drug use should be encouraged and should be done as early as possible in the pregnancy. Prenatal screening for drugs should only be used by the nurse-midwife as a diagnostic procedure wherein standard informed consent and confidentiality restraints are maintained.