Ethics of care for the micropreemies. Just because we can, should we?

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2022 Apr;27(2):101343. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2022.101343. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Debates about treatment for the tiniest premature babies focus on three different approaches - universal non-resuscitation, selective resuscitation, and universal resuscitation. Doctors, hospitals, and professional societies differ on which approach is preferable. The debate is evolving as studies show that survival rates for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks of gestation are steadily improving at centers that offer active treatment to these babies. Still, many centers do not offer such treatment or, if they do, actively discourage it. The doctors and centers that discourage treatment have concerns about the chances for survival, neurodevelopmental impairment among survivors, and cost. Centers that offer and encourage treatment cite evidence that many babies born at 22 weeks can survive, that most survivors have good neurodevelopmental outcomes, and that NICU care for tiny babies is cost-effective compared to many common and uncontroversial treatments. The debate touches on many fundamental ethical issues that have been present in neonatology since its inception as a medical specialty.

Keywords: Bioethics; Prematurity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Resuscitation