Decision making in the neonatal intensive care environment

Br Med Bull. 1996 Apr;52(2):238-45. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a011538.


Consideration as to whether withdrawal of intensive care support might be a more appropriate line of action than to continue with full intensive care has become a part of the life and death decision making process undertaken in neonatal intensive care units. After outlining the moral objectives of delivery of health care, the arguments for taking quality of life and its various components into account during these deliberations are presented. The circumstances in which the appropriateness of continuing care should be considered are highlighted and the care options presented. The crucial importance of allowing time for parents to come to terms with the situation is emphasised as is the need for giving clear guidelines to junior staff over resuscitation issues. Finally, an environment for providing optimal family support during the process of withdrawal is suggested.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple
  • Birth Injuries
  • Euthanasia, Passive
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Medical Futility*
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Resuscitation