References

EBCOG Position Paper on Alcohol and pregnancy. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2016; 202:99-100 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2016.04.020

Leppo A, Hecksher D The rise of the total abstinence model. Recommendations regarding alcohol use during pregnancy in Finland and Denmark. Nord Stud Alcohol Dr. 2010; 28:(1)7-27 https://doi.org/10.2478/v10199-011-0002-7

Leppo A, Hecksher D, Tryggvesson K ‘Why take chances?’ Advice on alcohol intake to pregnant and non-pregnant women in four Nordic countries. Health Risk Soc. 2014; 16:(6)512-29 https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2014.957659

Midgley MLondon: Routledge; 1992

Murphy M Maternal autonomy. British Journal of Midwifery. 2016; 24:(5)371-3 https://doi.org/10.12968/bjom.2016.24.5.371

Peterson M Should the precautionary principle guide our actions or our beliefs?. J Med Ethics. 2007; 33:(1)5-10 https://doi.org/10.1136/jme.2005.015495

Alcohol, pregnancy and the precautionary principle

02 October 2016
3 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 10

Philosopher Mary Midgley (1992: 3) observed: ‘As the gap between professional science and everyday thinking widens, it gets increasingly hard to work out in what sense most of us can be said to be thinking scientifically at all.’

This occurred to me on reading the title of an article by Leppo et al (2014: 512): ‘“Why take chances?” Advice on alcohol intake to pregnant and non-pregnant women in four Nordic countries.’ The authors report that not only have the governments of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden advised pregnant women to completely abstain from drinking alcohol, they also make the general point that in attempting to manage uncertainty there is a move away from the ‘estimation of risk’ in favour of what they describe as ‘a wider socio-cultural push towards broader employment of the precautionary principle’ (PP).

But where exactly does a ‘why take chances?’ approach arising from a ‘wider socio-cultural push’ towards the PP fit into a medical culture that is dedicated to proven scientific methods of risk evaluation and where the concept of evidence-based medicine is actively promoted? Leppo and Hecksher (2010: 7) acknowledge that when Denmark and Finland adopted their total abstinence message, their policy was ‘not, however, based on research evidence pertaining to the harmfulness of a small-to-moderate alcohol intake during pregnancy but rather on the principle of precaution.’

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