'They have to show that they can make it': vitality as a criterion for the prognosis of premature infants

Nurs Ethics. 2000 Mar;7(2):141-7. doi: 10.1177/096973300000700207.


In this article, the vitality of premature infants will be described and discussed. Vitality was one of the main factors in a grounded theory study in which the aim was to generate knowledge concerning the ethical decision-making processes with which nurses and physicians are faced in a neonatal unit. Which assessments underlie decisions about whether to start, continue or stop medical treatment of very sick premature babies? A descriptive study design, including 120 hours of field observations and 22 qualitative in-depth interviews with doctors and nurses, was chosen. Strauss and Glaser's comparative method was used to analyse the field observations and interviews. The findings indicate that life-and-death decisions are somewhat ambivalent; experience does not always make them easier. In situations of ambiguity, decisions also seem to be based upon the vitality of the babies concerned.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics, Clinical
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Euthanasia, Passive*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / methods*
  • Medical Futility
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Norway
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prognosis
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Withholding Treatment