Report: Preemies Considered "Hopeless" Died After Irish Doctors
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 26, 2006
DUBLIN, IRELAND--A recently published report found that 77 percent of all deaths of babies in Irish neonatal intensive-care units (NICUs) happened because doctors decided to withdraw life saving treatment.
For the study, done by the Irish Faculty of Pediatrics, most doctors admitted limiting critical care, including resuscitation, for premature newborns considered "hopeless".
The chairman of the committee that produced the report told the Sunday Times "sometimes it is more humane to withhold treatment" from preemies "who just won't make it."
The report, touted as the first of its kind in Ireland, is the latest of a number of recent studies in Europe looking at how pediatricians treat the smallest newborns that they believe might have shortened life spans or poor quality of life because of disabilities or medical conditions.
It comes at a time when the cost of treatment is escalating, and some bioethicists and doctors are pushing lawmakers to enact guidelines for deciding which babies should be allowed to live and which should be "blocked" from treatment and abandoned to die.
Many disability rights advocates oppose laws giving doctors permission to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from infants based on such things as low birth weight or short pregnancies. Some have noted that such doctors often had low expectations and incorrect assumptions about the quality of their lives.
"Doctors: we let 'hopeless' babies die" (The Sunday Times)