Ethics group rules on treating premature babies

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 16 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1033
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. 1London

Doctors should not normally give intensive care to premature babies born between 22 and 23 weeks' gestation, says a working party set up by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

The chances that these babies survive once they leave hospital are so low that such treatment is not appropriate, it argues.

“Natural instincts are to try to save all babies, even if the baby's chances of survival are low,” said Margaret Brazier, the chairwoman of the working party and professor of law at Manchester University.

“However, we don't think it is always right to put a baby through the stress and pain of invasive treatment if the baby is unlikely to get any better and death is inevitable.”

The new guidelines follow an increase in the number of extremely premature babies being born since the 1980s. Although the age at which such babies can survive has been falling, most will still die, says the report.

The council's consultation exercise has …

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