Let Littlest Preemies Die To Save Costs, Report Suggests
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 11, 2006
LONDON, ENGLAND--For years, disability rights advocates around the world have been fighting against efforts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, or "mercy killing", arguing that, among other things, such laws put the lives of people with disabilities at greater risk -- particularly at a time when medical costs are soaring.
As if to directly confirm those concerns, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a paper on March 26, reportedly calling for premature babies born before 25 weeks of gestation to be left without life-sustaining treatment.
According to several news accounts, the RCOG report faulted current medical policies and attitudes, which call for doctors to try to keep these preemies alive, for forcing other babies -- with greater chance of survival and less chance of disabilities -- out of packed maternity wards.
The report suggested that the National Health Service consider the high cost of the preemies' intensive care, along with their ongoing support if they end up with disabilities, when deciding whether such babies should be allowed to survive.
Alan Craft, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics, told the BBC that many pediatricians would support laws similar to those in the Netherlands, which allows doctors to refuse to treat the youngest preemies.
"The vast majority of children born at this gestation who do survive have significant disabilities," Craft said. "There is a lifetime cost and that needs to be taken into the equation when society tries to decide whether it wants to intervene."
According to The Telegraph, 800 babies are born in NHS maternity units under 25 weeks gestation each year -- or 15 weeks premature. Thirty-nine percent of those at born at 24 weeks survive.
"The care of premature babies is already an area that is under-resourced and overstretched, and it is not helpful to suggest that their worth can be calculated in terms of money," said an unnamed spokesperson with Bliss, an advocacy group for premature babies.
Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, said: "Babies born at 24 weeks have nearly a 40 percent chance of survival. What is the next step? Withholding treatment from anyone with cancer, heart or respiratory disease who has only a 40 percent chance of a worthwhile life?"
"Once we have doctors marking people for life or death on this inhumane basis, we shall find ourselves in a terrifying society."
"Premature babies are blocking beds, says royal medical college" (Telegraph)
"It's scandalous to put a price on the life of my son" (Telegraph)
"Spartan care" (Telegraph)
"Early babies dubbed bed blockers" (BBC News)
"Medics would have left our baby to die" (Norwich Evening News)
"Opinion: A bad time to be very young or old" (Telegraph)