Legal Measures to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Video on Legal Issues and FASD Prevention now available

Legal Measures to Prevent FASD

In September 2013, the Institute of Health Economics (IHE) held the first-ever Consensus Development Conference on Legal Issues of FASD in Edmonton, Alberta.

The three-day conference examined issues such as:

  • What are the implications of FASD for the legal system?
  • Is there a need for enhanced efforts to identify people with FASD and how can these efforts be achieved?
  • How can the criminal justice system respond more effectively to those with FASD?
  • How can family courts and the family/child welfare legal system address the specific needs of people with FASD?
  • What are the best practices for guardianship, trusteeship and social support in a legal context?
  • What legal measures are there in different jurisdictions to contribute to the prevention of FASD and what are the ethical and economic implications of these measures?

Nancy Poole, Director of Research and Knowledge Translation at the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and FASD Prevention Team Lead with the Canada FASD Research Network, gave a fantastic 30 minute presentation called “Legal measures to contribute to prevention of FASD, effectiveness and ethical issues. Some of the issues that she addresses are:

  • Alcohol and pregnancy warning labels
  • Measures to ban selling or serving alcohol to pregnant women
  • Interventions targeted at pregnant women with addictions
  • Measures related to contraception, and
  • Compulsory testing of pregnant women for alcohol

Some of the issues discussed following the presentation included the importance of alcohol brief interventions by health care providers, involving men in FASD prevention, subsidizing long-acting contraception, targeted vs. universal interventions, the relationship between women’s empowerment and successful FASD prevention, and the broader context of alcohol consumption in society.


Some of the themes from this presentation can be found in the Consensus Statement developed following the conference.

The 2013 Consensus Statement on Legal Issues of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) was produced by a distinguished jury led by the Honourable Ian Binnie, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and includes a range of recommendations calling for changes to the way people with FASD are dealt with by the legal system in Canada. Recommendations related to FASD prevention (p. 35) included:

59. Develop a comprehensive FASD prevention strategy for Canada.

60. Develop gender-specific programs and create opportunities for women and men to discuss with their health care provider relationship issues, child care, and alcohol consumption.

61. Prevention programs should focus on those areas in which positive effects have been demonstrated. In particular, it may be worthwhile to examine interventions involving the mother-child unit. Such approaches might help reduce the likelihood of subsequent children with FASD after a child is found to suffer from an intellectual impairment or neurological disorder such as FASD.

62. Develop evidence-based mandatory training programs for front-line workers on how to talk to women in a secure, non-threatening fashion about the underlying causes of alcohol consumption

Videos from the entire conference are available for viewing on the IHE website here.