Withholding hydration and nutrition in newborns

Theor Med Bioeth. 2007;28(5):443-51. doi: 10.1007/s11017-007-9049-6.


In the twenty-first century, decisions to withhold or withdraw life-supporting measures commonly precede death in the neonatal intensive care unit without major ethical controversy. However, caregivers often feel much greater turmoil with regard to stopping medical hydration and nutrition than they do when considering discontinuation of mechanical ventilation or circulatory support. Nevertheless, forgoing medical fluids and food represents a morally acceptable option as part of a carefully developed palliative care plan considering the infant's prognosis and the burdens of continued treatment. Decisions to stop any form of life support should focus on the clinical circumstances, not the means used to sustain life.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Ethics, Clinical
  • Fluid Therapy / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / ethics*
  • Life Support Care / ethics*
  • Medical Futility / ethics
  • Neonatology / ethics*
  • Parenteral Nutrition / ethics*
  • Prognosis
  • Withholding Treatment / ethics*