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FWD Obstetricians call for debate on ethics of euthanasia for very sick babies

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  • Keith Armstrong
    Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The option to end the
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 5, 2006
      Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion
      about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The
      option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who
      might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of
      its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says
      the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence
      to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines
      ethical issues raised by new developments.

      The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more
      radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions,
      the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of
      widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".

      The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses
      and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because
      of its illegality.

      But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its
      investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for
      newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.

      The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia
      "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake
      ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants
      were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision
      making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be
      more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on
      outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28
      weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion.
      Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no
      such option.

      There are enormous social, emotional and financial costs involved in
      caring for a profoundly disabled baby, the submission adds. If a
      mother really understood the "real, life-long costs" of caring for
      such a child and understood the slim chance of being fully recompensed
      by the state, "perhaps she might feel differently about aggressive
      resuscitation and treatment of her premature baby. Perhaps her
      doctors might as well," says the submission.

      Euthanasia for very severely disabled newborn babies suffering from
      specified conditions is permitted in the Netherlands. Some suspect
      that "mercy killing" probably occurs in the UK. But medical advances
      which have enabled very premature babies to be kept alive at only 24
      weeks gestation - little more than half the expected time in the womb
      - have led to a presumption that every technological intervention will
      be used to keep the baby going at all costs. In the case of Charlotte
      Wyatt, the parents vigorously opposed the doctors' wish to be
      allowed not to revive her through the courts. The child, now three,
      survived, although severely disabled and now in care.

      The UK Disabled People's Council yesterday rejected discussion of
      euthanasia for newborn babies. "It is not for medical professionals or
      indeed anyone else like families to determine whether someone else's
      quality of life will be good simply on the grounds of impairment or
      health condition," said its parliamentary worker, Simone Aspis.

      Sarah Boseley, health editor Monday November 6, 2006 The Guardian

      more goto:

      <http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1940511,00.html>
    • lm murray
      Thank you, Keith. Most interesting. I m hoping Margaret Somerville will touch on this issue sometime during the Massey lecture series this week CBC Radio One
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 7, 2006
        Thank you, Keith.  Most interesting.  I'm hoping Margaret Somerville will touch on this issue sometime during the Massey lecture series this week CBC Radio One at 9 p.m.  See http://www.amazon.ca/Ethical-Imagination-CBC-Massey-Lectures/dp/0887847471.
         
        Louise

        Keith Armstrong <keitharm@...> wrote:
        Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion
        about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The
        option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who
        might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of
        its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says
        the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence
        to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines
        ethical issues raised by new developments.

        The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more
        radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions,
        the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of
        widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".

        The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses
        and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because
        of its illegality.

        But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its
        investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for
        newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.

        The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia
        "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency' s sake
        ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants
        were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision
        making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be
        more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on
        outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28
        weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion.
        Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no
        such option.

        There are enormous social, emotional and financial costs involved in
        caring for a profoundly disabled baby, the submission adds. If a
        mother really understood the "real, life-long costs" of caring for
        such a child and understood the slim chance of being fully recompensed
        by the state, "perhaps she might feel differently about aggressive
        resuscitation and treatment of her premature baby. Perhaps her
        doctors might as well," says the submission.

        Euthanasia for very severely disabled newborn babies suffering from
        specified conditions is permitted in the Netherlands. Some suspect
        that "mercy killing" probably occurs in the UK. But medical advances
        which have enabled very premature babies to be kept alive at only 24
        weeks gestation - little more than half the expected time in the womb
        - have led to a presumption that every technological intervention will
        be used to keep the baby going at all costs. In the case of Charlotte
        Wyatt, the parents vigorously opposed the doctors' wish to be
        allowed not to revive her through the courts. The child, now three,
        survived, although severely disabled and now in care.

        The UK Disabled People's Council yesterday rejected discussion of
        euthanasia for newborn babies. "It is not for medical professionals or
        indeed anyone else like families to determine whether someone else's
        quality of life will be good simply on the grounds of impairment or
        health condition," said its parliamentary worker, Simone Aspis.

        Sarah Boseley, health editor Monday November 6, 2006 The Guardian

        more goto:

        <http://society. guardian. co.uk/health/ story/0,, 1940511,00. html>


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