The role of a pediatric ethics committee in the newborn intensive care unit

J Perinatol. 2011 Jan;31(1):1-9. doi: 10.1038/jp.2010.39. Epub 2010 Mar 25.


Institutional Ethics Committees are commonly available in hospitals with newborn intensive care units, and may serve as a valuable resource for staff and parents dealing with difficult ethical decisions. Many clinicians may be unaware of when the committee might be helpful, or how it functions. After a brief historical introduction, two cases are presented as illustrations of pediatric ethics committee function. The first involves consideration of cardiac surgery for an infant with ventricular septal defect and Trisomy 13. The second involves disagreement between staff and parents regarding possible provision of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation in a terminally ill newborn. Principles and considerations often brought to bear in committee deliberations are reviewed for each case. Neonatologists, staff and families should be aware of this potentially valuable resource, and are encouraged to use it for situations of moral distress, conflict resolution or ethical uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Chromosome Disorders / complications
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 13
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / complications
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / ethics*
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Neonatology / ethics
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Parents
  • Role*
  • Terminally Ill
  • Trisomy
  • Trisomy 13 Syndrome