Monday, March 7, 2016
The Ethical Dilemma of Premature Neonates
Doctors often have to question themselves with “Have I done enough?” However, now doctors are questioning themselves with “Have we done too much?” Over the past few decades advancement in the care of premature neonates has improved drastically. Doctors understand more now than they ever have before about the development and growth of babies. This advancement allows doctors to save premature babies up to only 22 weeks into the gestational period. That is only 2 weeks longer than what would be half of the typical gestational period of 40 weeks. Although the possibility of saving these extremely premature infants is possible, doctors have begun to question the ethics behind saving these children when typically they develop many handicaps and a poor quality of life.
Babies born prematurely are extremely underweight, there skin is very thin and they are predisposed to infection, their lungs are not developed and they have breathing issues, their eyes are not developed and leave them blind, the chances of a brain bleed are high due to the lack of blood vessel development, and their intestines cannot sustain nutrients for they are also not developed. Physicians have developed ways to combat the lack of the development but long term solutions are still in need. Amongst all of these problems trying to only stay alive, extremely premature babies can be forced to stay in the hospital for months if not a year in the hospital trying to develop enough to survive and combat the outside environment. Even if the doctors can keep them alive during infancy, many of these children do not make it far into childhood. It is not that doctors want to say, “What’s the point if they are only going to live a few years?” but when thinking of the suffering and pain of the baby and their parents—as well as the extreme risks it will cost them, doctors must think holistically about the patient and families in these difficult situations.
It makes everything much harder when babies are involved in anything that could harm them. Doctors fight for children’s lives on a completely different levels than adults because children have their whole lives ahead of them. The doctors reasoning is not wrong but they have to take into consideration of the financial hardships that are to come. Not only are the hospital bills from saving premature babies lives extremely expensive, especially depending on the extent of the stay, but the after care costs have to be thought of as well. The medication, special diets, and equipment are necessary for the survival of these infants after leaving the hospital but most parents in America cannot afford them. The inability to harness the supplies causes the child’s health to suffer and leads to fatality. The quality of life in these situations really way on the minds of doctors and the question of “Would it have been better if they had just passed? That way they wouldn’t have all of this pain and suffering?”
Times Magazine has recently written an article looking into the views of parents and doctors and the miracle of saving the lives of extremely premature infants. Advancements are slowly starting to not only keep babies alive, but also it has started to help them thrive. Parents are always grateful that their children are alive and they can spend more time with them than they originally thought but it does way on their minds that their children are so sick. Scientists in the medical field are pleased with the swiftness of advancement in the field of premature infants but the time currently happening between the shifting of advancement is weighing on the consciences of physicians and medical staff.
This essay is not strictly to say that I prefer one way of thinking on this topic over another but to just inform other individuals of the thoughts and circumstances of which are incorporated into the medical field when dealing with premature neonates. I would like for this essay to be thought provoking and truly have people question themselves and their beliefs on this matter.