[AMA Board of Trustees Report. Legal interventions during pregnancy: court-
ordered medical treatments and legal penalties for potentially harmful
behavior by pregnant women. JAMA. 1990; 264:2663–2670.]
The AMA Board of Trustees recommends adoption of the following statement:
1. Judicial intervention is inappropriate when a woman has made an informed
refusal of a medical treatment designed to benefit her fetus. If an exceptional
circumstance could be found in which a medical treatment poses an
insignificant or no health risk to the woman, entails a minimal invasion of her
bodily integrity, and would clearly prevent substantial and irreversible harm to
her fetus, it might be appropriate for a physician to seek judicial intervention.
However, the fundamental principle against compelled medical procedures
should control in all cases that do not present such exceptional circumstances.
2. The physician’s duty is to provide appropriate information, such that the
pregnant woman may make an informed and thoughtful decision, not to
dictate the woman’s decision.
3. A physician should not be liable for honoring a pregnant woman’s informed
refusal of medical treatment designed to benefit the fetus.
4. Criminal sanctions or civil liability for harmful behavior by the pregnant
woman toward her fetus are inappropriate.
5. Pregnant substance abusers should be provided with rehabilitative treatment
appropriate to their specific physiological and psychological needs.
6. To minimize the risk of legal action by a pregnant patient or an injured child
or fetus, the physician should document medical recommendations made
including the consequences of failure to comply with the physician’s