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Doing Nothing For Premature Babies

'Do not revive' earliest babies

I was amazed when I heard this on the radio this morning. They actually want to put an arbitrary cut off point on how old a premature baby is before it will deemed capable of surviving?

OK, a baby that young is very unlikely to survive, but surely it should be given a chance?

Also, doctors aren't infallible what if they get it wrong and the baby is actually older? How can you put such a rigid cut off point on assisting a baby's chance for life?

I may disagree with it, but I could understand a suggestion of putting babies so young that they are unlikely to survive out of their misery, but they don't even want to do that.

How can doing nothing be the best solution? Surely it has to be a case of giving the baby the best chance of life we can (which I personally think we should do) or, if we are going to rule out any possibility that they are going to survive, of taking actions to shorten any suffering?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
16th Nov, 2006 13:16 (UTC)
While this is a difficult and emotive subject I think the Doctors are right to suggest this. The evidence shows that no baby born before 21 weeks can currently survive and a survival rate of 1% at 22 weeks is very low. Unless advances are made in premature baby care, surely it's best for the Doctors to concentrate their efforts on those that are most likely to survive? As much as it might seem wrong finance does have come into this, plus the other resources such as the number of Doctors and Nurses available to give the care needed. If they were able to raise the survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks from 17%, then I could see an argument for extending the efforts to helping younger babies, but until then I don't see that it makes sense.

I am however fully aware that since I am not a parent, I do not know what it is like to have such an attachment to another human (and I never will), but I am prepared to admit that I am sure it is different when you are in that position yourself. Having said that, I also think that sometimes people expect too much of Doctors and modern medicine. In some situations I think that intervention is not the best course of action and that we try too hard to preserve life at all costs these days.

16th Nov, 2006 16:17 (UTC)
Yes, but even given that, surely these things should be judged on a case by case basis by the doctor and not given an arbitrary cut off point.

A certain baby of 21 weeks may be more developed than one of 22 weeks, why should the later deserve the care more?

Also, if you are going to give up on certain babies surviving, why not put them out of the misery in that case?
16th Nov, 2006 16:28 (UTC)
I suppose one of the things to consider here is how are the Doctors deciding how many weeks old the baby is. It can be difficult to tell exactly when someone became pregnant, so while they think they are 21 weeks gone, might actually be 22 or 23 weeks. I would hope that rather than just take a rigid view of 'This is when your due date is, therefore your baby is 21 weeks old and so will be left to die...' the Doctors would actually be looking at how old the baby was developmentally. I suspect that Doctors dealing with very premature babies have a good idea right from the start which ones are likely to make it and which ones aren't.

I don't see any need to actually hasten the death of any baby that they decide not to give treatment to, the chances are without intervention they will die within hours if not sooner.
Dave Holland [org.uk]
16th Nov, 2006 15:31 (UTC)
OK, a baby that young is very unlikely to survive, but surely it should be given a chance?

This may sound callous or hard-hearted, but one might consider that the baby has already lost its chance by being born so extremely prematurely.

I find it difficult to imagine being in such a situation, but I think it would be hard to justify the enormous effort involved in medical intervention which would result in a slightly higher chance of survival - and even then, a high chance of permanent disability.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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