Wednesday, November 15, 2006

'No revival' for premature babies

The report says babies born at 22 weeks should not be resuscitated

Babies born at or before 22 weeks should not be resuscitated or given intensive care, a report says.

The recommendation is being put forward by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which considers ethical questions raised by advances in medical research.

For those born after 23 weeks, the recommendation is that doctors should review the situation with the parents and take their wishes into account.

The report has been released after two years of research.

It will also give guidance on how parents should resolve arguments with doctors over the fate of their babies.

The report comes against a backdrop of medical advances which have been able to sustain the lives of very premature babies.

However, research shows that many of these babies do not live very long, or go on to develop severe disability.

Part of the problem is that despite advances in modern medicine, it is not always obvious to doctors which babies will survive and thrive.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics inquiry also looked at longer-term support for families, and resource implications for the NHS.

Many premature births

Bliss, the premature baby charity, is campaigning for one to one neonatal intensive care, and for decisions to made based on clinical reasoning, and not financial constraints.

The charity said the UK had the highest rate of low birth weight babies in Western Europe.

About 300 babies are born in the UK each year at 23 weeks.

They have a 17% survival rate, compared with 50% for those born at 25 weeks.

Figures suggest that no baby survives at 21 weeks, while only 1% survive at 22 weeks
Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, said it would be wrong to make a decision based purely on the gestational age of the baby.

She told She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the important issue here is that the doctor has a duty to both the parents and the baby - and what the parents want is that the baby is considered as an individual.

"No two babies - at 22 or 23 weeks - are exactly the same."

There are about 250 units in the UK offering neonatal intensive care, high dependency and special care.

Earlier this month the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it wanted a discussion over whether "deliberate intervention" to cause death in severely disabled babies should be legalised.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics was established in 1991 to examine ethical questions raised by advances in biological and medical research.

Source: BBC

Comment: My friends Daughter was born at 22 weeks and is now a healthy 7 year old.

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