Last night, Adam Wishart’s BBC2 documentary ‘23 Weeks: The Price of Life‘ looked at the very difficult decisions faced by parents and doctors about the care and treatment of extremely premature babies. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics considered some of these issues in its report Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues.
In response to the programme, Hugh Whittall, Director of the Council, said:
“We do not think it is always right to subject a baby to painful treatment if the baby is unlikely to survive. However, the outlook for babies born before 24 weeks is often very uncertain, which can make decisions about treatment very difficult.”
“We advocate a partnership approach to decision-making, where parents, doctors, nurses and others important to the family, work together to agree on what is best for the baby. If parents would prefer not to be involved in the decision, then the healthcare team should decide what is best.”
“We do not think there should be an absolute limit below which babies are not resuscitated. Different babies can have very different outcomes, and it can be difficult to estimate exactly how old the baby is – so each baby should be assessed individually. The medical guidelines are exactly that, a guide to help doctors and parents decide what to do in these very difficult circumstances.”
“There is an inconsistency in trying to save the lives of very ill babies without providing enough support for the children who survive. The government should accept more responsibility for supporting disabled children and adults.”