What rights do parents have regarding emergency medical care of a newborn?
March 10, 2009 3:21 PM Subscribe
What rights do parents have to stop resuscitation and other medical intervention in an extremely premature or gravely compromised newborn?
posted by werkzeuger to Law & Government (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I recently learned we are expecting twins. We have already lost two pregnancies, one to a severe fetal defect. We are more conscious than most parents-to-be about what can go wrong, and twins carry their own complications. My wife is a health care professional in an emergency room and she deals daily with the possible negative long-term consequences of aggressive neonatal intervention. It may shock some, but we both believe that in some cases it is better to let a baby die peacefully.
All of this had led us to wonder what rights we have, if any, to limit care to a newborn arriving with a profound life-threatening defect or condition. Our nightmare is to have babies who would be in our opinion better allowed to die whisked away and given heroic treatment that would prolong their suffering. I can easily imagine the tremendous pressure in a delivery room to do whatever is necessary to save a baby, and we fear being steamrolled by that momentum.
It appears the topic of neonatal do-not-resuscitate orders is almost taboo (a google search of “neonatal DNR” returns just three results) but such orders are possible. Complicating further is the so-called “Baby Doe” law of 1982 that requires hospitals to provide certain types of care to newborns regardless of parental desires, and defines the failure to do so as abuse/neglect.
The actual question is what can we say no to, and under what circumstances? How premature (in this time of expanding viability) is premature enough to say “no, too early!”
We will definitely be talking to our OB about this, but I would dearly appreciate the input of the hivemind. Thanks in advance for discussing law, rights and practice instead of morality. This is a really tough thing for us. We're in Minnesota, USA if state law matters.