Advances in medicine mean that families and health professionals can be faced with extremely difficult decisions about the care of very premature or seriously ill babies, which may concern:
the care of a fetus and mother prior to birth;
whether to resuscitate a newborn baby, and admit him or her to neonatal intensive care; and
whether to institute further treatment after birth, or to withhold or withdraw the baby?s treatment.
These decisions are complex, emotionally demanding and may have lifelong consequences.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics will be publishing a report, Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues, which examines the ethical, social and legal issues which may arise. The topics covered include: guidelines to help parents and professionals make decisions about instituting intensive care for extremely premature and seriously ill babies; decision making during pregnancy when fetal abnormalities are present; how the best interests of a baby may be assessed; the lifelong implications for a baby and their family; the decision making process and resolving disputes; social and economic implications for policy makers; and information requirements, including the need for research.