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Early Hum Dev. 1992 Jun-Jul;29(1-3):403-6.

Ethical problems in neonatal intensive care unit--medical decision making on the neonate with poor prognosis.

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Maternal and Perinatal Center, Tokyo Women's Medical College, Japan.


In current NICU (neonatal intensive care units), it is inevitable that ethical decisions on neonates with a poor prognosis will have to be made. At Tokyo Women's Medical College, we have been applying our own policy of medical decision making, which is somewhat different to those of most western countries. Most families are not asked to make final decisions, and the ethical committee is not actively involved. Staff in the NICU make the decision after plenary discussions. The position after decision making is not to discontinue the life supporting system but to observe, with no additional treatments and with routine care (class C). From October 1984 to September 1989, 58 out of 1589 neonates admitted to the NICU at Tokyo Women's Medical College died and 32 (55%) of them were classified as class C. The main causes of medical decision making were; non-viable (4/4, 100%), lethal malformations (13/20, 65%) and birth asphyxia (15/19, 79%).

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