Toxic: The Challenge of Involuntary Contraception in Incompetent Psychiatric Patients Treated with Teratogenic Medication


Jordan L. Schwartzberg, Bridget King, and Jacob M. Appel


Limitations on reproductive decision making, including forced sterilization and involuntary birth control, raise significant ethical challenges. In the United States, these issues are further complicated by a disturbing history of the abuse and victimization of vulnerable populations. One particularly fraught challenge is the risk of teratogenicity posed by mood-stabilizing psychiatric medications in patients who are incapable of appreciating such dangers. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) offers an intervention to prevent pregnancy among individuals who receive such treatments, but at a cost to their reproductive autonomy. This article examines the ethical issues involved in the use of involuntary LARC for patients on teratogenic psychiatric medications (TPMs) and argues that such an approach can only be justified as a last resort after a careful consideration of the alternatives and an assessment of potential risks and benefits.


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