Prohibited substance regulation and compliance testing : a principalism approach

21 Oct 2021

BACKGROUND. Prohibited substance regulation and compliance-testing programmes are required to minimise risks to health and safety in the workplace due to inappropriate use of legal (alcohol, cannabis) and illegal substances. A compliance drug test is, in principle, an invasive biomedical intervention that infringes on the autonomy and other rights of the individual, giving rise to ethical dilemmas. OBJECTIVES. To employ Beauchamp and Childress’ principalism approach to reason and to motivate for the minimum ethical requirements for this type of biomedical intervention. METHODS. The ethical aspects relevant to the mandatory guidelines of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the USA (SAMHSA) protocols and procedures were extracted and interpreted with reference to the principalism approach. RESULTS. The principalism approach was found to be highly applicable to the ethical requirements of a prohibited substance regulation and testing programme. CONCLUSION. Ethical dilemmas could be explained and motivated by using the four principles of respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice as a starting point.