Louise and colleagues (2015) propose an important set of ethical issues that must be considered before promoting warning labels as a public health tool for alcohol-related risk of cancer. Their example is interesting to compare to the debated use of warning labels on alcohol as primary prevention for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a frequent form of neurodevelopmental delay. We comment on two of the chief ethical concerns brought to light in Louise and colleagues’ paper and relevant to FASD: (1) the potential unintended impacts of warning labels in FASD; and (2) evidence of their effectiveness for changing behavior within a constellation of influences (e.g., social and environmental factors) on decision making and the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Our analysis brings support to the authors’ point that “the justifiability of warning labels may depend very much upon the context” (Louise et al. 2015, 10), both from an evidence-based and ethical standpoint.
(2015) Caution! Warning Labels About Alcohol and Pregnancy: Unintended Consequences and Questionable Effectiveness, The American Journal of Bioethics, 15:3, 18-20,