Critical Care Decisions in Fetal and Neonatal Medicine: Ethical Issues 

Institute of Physics
London, UK
November 16, 2006 

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.

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 its family; the decision-making process and resolving disputes; social and economic implications for policy makers; and information requirements, including the need for research.