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Brain Cogn. 2002 Dec;50(3):449-54.

Ethical considerations in neuroimaging and its impact on decision-making for neonates.

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Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, 750 Welch Road, Suite 315, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.


Neuroimaging can now provide information about structure and function. Despite new and improved neuroimaging technologies applicable to the newborn, predictions about later cognition, learning, social and emotional behavior, and neuromuscular capabilities, based on images of a fetus inside or a newborn outside the womb, are fraught with difficulties that go beyond technical ones. The interpretation of neuroimages may be necessary but it is not sufficient for decision-making related to the withholding or withdrawing of medical support for neonates. As the explanatory reach of neuroimaging increases, there will still need to be consideration of ethical issues as they relate to the best interests of the neonate and the neonate's parents, the quality of life of the neonate and non-beneficial treatment. Once this is appreciated, the boundary between the technical and the ethical will be less often disputed.

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