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Monday 28th May 2018

Allow babies to die, say experts

15th November 2006

03102006_foetus1.jpgExperts are set to issue controversial guidance that only babies born after 22 weeks should be routinely resuscitated.

A report on the care of sick and disabled babies from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics says that babies born before 22 weeks in the womb should not be routinely resuscitated.

It followed intense debate around the issue, with everyone from neonatal specialists and the Church of England providing views on whether very premature or sick babies should be allowed to die.

The 22-week threshold has been chosen because babies born before then have a low chance of surviving, as little as one per cent, and high risk of severe disability. It is not always clear which babies will survive or which will go on to have severe disabilities and need constant care.

Statistics show that no babies born at 21 weeks survive, while babies born just two weeks later, at 23 weeks have a 17 per cent chance of survival. The guidelines are expected to say at this stage, the parents wishes should be considered.

The report sets out guidelines on how to deal with very premature babies and in resolving conflict from parents over the fate of their child. Around 300 babies are born each year in Britain between 22 and 23 weeks.

Debate before publication of the report has been intense, with a wide range of experts and pro-life organisations publishing their views on whether very premature or sick babies should be allowed to die.

The working party behind the report is made up of professors of philosophy, ethics, children's nursing and neonatal medicine. The report has taken two years to produce.

The report follows a call from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for an open debate on euthanasia for the sickest babies. This discussion would include withholding treatment for babies facing severe disabilities as well as taking action to end the life of a baby.

The report will also give guidance on abortion decisions, following the discovery of an abnormality.

Currently, the Abortion Act 1967 allows for pregnancies to be terminated up to 24 weeks.

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Article Information

Title: Allow babies to die, say experts
Author: Martine Hamilton
Article Id: 1081
Date Added: 15th Nov 2006


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