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The ethics of paediatric anti-depressant use: erring on the side of caution


This paper aims to outline the ethical concerns regarding the use of antidepressant medication in children and adolescents. Recent debates surrounding this issue have focused on the link between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use and an increased risk of suicidal thinking/behaviour, and weighed that against the benefit of the alleviation of depressive symptoms. It is argued here that such an approach is simplistic. There are several serious risks surrounding antidepressant use in the young that ought to be included in the equation, along with a consideration of the neuroethical concerns surrounding pharmacotherapy for affective disorders. Using the precautionary principle as a framework for analysis it is concluded that the risks are sufficiently serious and plausible that the prescribing of antidepressant medication to the young ought to be severely restricted; further it is imperative that the child and their parents are made fully aware of the risks, short-term and long-term, involved.

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