Decision making in neonatologia

Minerva Pediatr. 2010 Jun;62(3 Suppl 1):121-3.


The field of neonatology presents a fascinating context in which hugely important decisions have to be made on the basis of physicians' assessments of the long term consequences of various possible choices. In many cases such assessments cannot be derived from a consensual professional opinion; the situation is characterized by a high level of uncertainty. A sample of neonatologists in different countries received a questionnaire including vignette cases for which no clear consensus exists regarding the (probabilistic) prognosis. They were asked to (I) assess the probability of various outcomes (death, severe impairment) and (II) choose a treatment to be offered to the parents. Information on the physicians' professional and socio-demographic characteristics and their ethical "values" was also collected. The goal of this international survey is to understand the prognosis and to analyze decision making by professionals in the context of life and death in medicine. The availability of an identical technology in different social and institutional contexts should help identifying the convergences and differences under consideration. Seventy percent of those invited responded to the questionnaire (International 60-80%). Italian neonatologists seem to be quite pessimistic about the prognosis of infants at high risk of death or long term disabilities, they show a pro-life attitude, but in a certain proportion are willing to change their minds if requested by parents. Furthermore personal opinions predominate in the decision-making process and the contribution of team meeting and/or ethic consultation seem not significantly modify the decisions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Death
  • Decision Making* / ethics
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / psychology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / therapy
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Medical Futility
  • Neonatology / ethics
  • Neonatology / methods*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Physicians / ethics
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Prognosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Value of Life