Ethical Considerations When Communicating a Diagnosis of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to a Child
J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol Vol 19(3):e361-e368; October 11, 2012
Original Research
Michelle Todorow, Karrela Paris, Ellen Fantus


Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy may result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which is an umbrella term used to describe a range of conditions that are associated with significant neurodevelopmental impairments. Communicating an FASD diagnosis to a child is a complex and difficult task that requires a great deal of care, particularly due to the sensitive nature of the etiology of these disorders. To the best of our knowledge, there are no formal guidelines or published materials that outline the ethical considerations specifically associated with disclosing an FASD diagnosis to a child. This paper discusses a number of ethical principles and situational factors that should be considered when communicating an FASD diagnosis, as well as some of the potential risks and benefits associated with disclosure. We also provide recommendations to assist clinicians in communicating the diagnosis in a manner that increases understanding and minimizes harm to the child. Future recommendations include the development of formalized guidelines in order to aid clinicians in carrying out this sensitive task.

Key Words: FASD, diagnosis, disclosure, children, ethics

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