The University of Washington is reevaluating the ethics of an upcoming study of the effects of marijuana on unborn babies. It is the first such study that looks at babies whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy, but no illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
KOUW’s Ann Dornfield reports that child health advocates, for example, are challenging the study by declaring that there is a lot of knowledge already about the effects of THC on fetal health. One such advocate, Pamela McColl, is concerned that the women in the study are not being given informed consent options.
When the morning sickness starts to kick in, you might start to wonder: is using marijuana to alleviate nausea safe for your baby? Most studies of prenatal cannabis exposure have focused on addiction, with pregnant participants using alcohol and other substances in addition to marijuana. (Learn more about the existing evidence on marijuana in pregnancy here, and about the evidence on other drugs and anti-nausea medications in pregnancy here.) That’s why University of Washington researchers, led by Natalia Kleinhans, are recruiting participants for a new study designed to look at the effects of marijuana alone on prenatal development. If you participate, you will meet with researchers three times during pregnancy, then bring in your baby at six months old for behavioral assessments and an MRI scan. All study procedures are approved for confidentiality and safety by the National Institutes of Health and by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division.
Participants will earn up to $300. McColl is part of a citizens’ group that seeks to stop the clinical study. Karen Moe, head of UW’s human subjects division, declared the IRB takes such concerns seriously and is investigating. Moe reports a decision should be made within a week.