Ethical considerations in neonatal end-of-life care

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013 Apr;18(2):105-10. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2012.10.011. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Decisions regarding the end-of-life care of neonates, especially those at the limits of viability, cannot be made on the basis of clinical facts alone. They should take into account the values and beliefs of all concerned. Application of classical moral theories may take insufficient account of the interests of small babies. Due consideration needs to be given to the value and quality of babies' lives, their best interests, and the interests of their parents in practical decision-making. Life-sustaining treatments can be withheld or withdrawn if they no longer serve the baby's best interests, but active euthanasia (though an acceptable practice in The Netherlands) remains illegal in the UK. Withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration can be ethical but remains controversial. If organ donation in UK neonates is to become established it will need to respond to the changing characteristics of neonatal deaths in ways that are ethically and socially sensitive.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Palliative Care / ethics*
  • Terminal Care / ethics*
  • United Kingdom
  • Withholding Treatment / ethics*