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…At The Extremes

Posted by MDViews on January 6, 2005

Yahoo! News – Study: Extreme Preemies Have Disabilities

AP trumpets a study from this weeks New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) about severely premature infants from 22 to 25 weeks and their development over the first 6 years of life. To no one’s surprise, these most tiny of the tiny often survive with some disabilities, sometimes profound disabilities when they do survive. About 1/2 have what are described as moderate to severe disabilities including CP, vision or hearing loss and learning problems. One third are mildly disabled and 20% are OK.

I don’t have access to the NEJM having let my subscription lapse. However, the purpose of the article, I think, is mentioned in the fourth paragraph: “Guidelines call for not resuscitating the most severely premature babies…”

Some thoughts come to mind…

First, none of this information is new, so why the big splash in Yahoo? Why state the obvious with such a sense of discovery?

Because an article this big and this important and this authoritative will provide cover for doctors and parents who want to pull the plug on the very premature.

I’ve worked with neonatologist angry, upset, depressed that a couple said, “Yes, doctor, do everything you can to save our baby.” This article will give them cover. It’s easy to see the conversation. “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Jones. I know that your baby’s heart is beating and lungs are breathing and we would like to do all we can, but we have guidelines that show your baby will be a vegetable, so just give up and say good-bye. There just isn’t any hope.” The parents will recoil at the thought. There will be anger and tears, but the doctor will prevail and “do what’s best for the baby.”

Then, think of the premature baby that has been in the nursery for 2 months and has had a stormy course and is certainly looking at a life of disabilities. How long before the “guidelines” get stretched to include that soul into the final solution.

Either life is precious and valuable or it’s not. Either life at the extremes should be protected and defended or not.

Do disabilities disqualify one from life? Is a potential learning disability a reason to pull the plug? Do we have to be perfect to be loved and appreciated on God’s green earth?

Pray that they don’t come for you, dear friend, if perfection is the criteria.

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