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UK Ethics Panel Recommends Withholding Treatment For Littlest Preemies
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 16, 2006

LONDON, ENGLAND--An influential panel that reviews ethical issues in medicine released a lengthy report Thursday, in which it called for British doctors to be allowed to let some newborns die.

The 245-page report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics recommended that doctors should not automatically provide life-sustaining treatment for premature babies born at 22 weeks gestation or less, and that those born between 22 and 23 weeks should only receive intensive treatment if the parents request the care and doctors agree with the parents.

The report's authors said that just one percent of newborns born at 23 weeks survive long enough to leave the hospital and that those who do usually live with severe disabilities.

The strict cut-off points outlined in the report are not supported by the British Medical Association, which responded that such "blanket rules" do not help individual parents or babies, and that each case should be considered "on its merits and its own context".

Earlier this week, leaders of the Church of England issued a statement saying that doctors should be allowed to withhold treatment from some preemies and babies with disabilities even 'knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death'.

And one week earlier, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggested that the deliberate killing of babies with disabilities be considered as a treatment option. The college suggested in a Sunday Times of London article that "active euthanasia" should be considered for the overall good of families, and to keep parents from the emotional and economic hardship of raising a child with disabilities.

Such statements have angered and worried many disability groups that oppose legalizing euthanasia for babies and adults. The advocates have argued that, among other things, making 'mercy killing' legal puts vulnerable people at greater risk -- especially when the lives of people with disabilities are considered less valuable and the cost of health care is so high. Such practices also send the message that it is better to die than to live with a disability, they say.

"Report: Don't save extreme preemies" (Reuters via MSNBC)
"Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues" (Nuffield Council on Bioethics)


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