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Arch Pediatr. 2010 May;17(5):527-39. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2009.09.024. Epub 2010 Mar 12.

[Very premature births: Dilemmas and management. Second part: Ethical aspects and recommendations].

[Article in French]

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Service de médecine néonatale de Port-Royal, 123, boulevard de Port-Royal, 75 014 Paris, France.


In the first part of this work, the outcome following very premature birth was assessed. This enabled a gray zone to be defined, with inherent major prognostic uncertainty. In France today, the gray zone corresponds to deliveries occurring at 24 and 25 weeks of postmenstrual age. The management of births occurring below and above the gray zone was described. Withholding intensive care at birth for babies born below or within the gray zone does not mean withholding care but rather providing palliative care to prevent pain and suffering during the time period preceding death. Given the high level of uncertainty, making good decisions within the gray zone is problematic. Decisions should be based on the infant's best interests. Decisions should be reached with the parents, who are entitled to receive clear and comprehensive information. Possible decisions to withhold intensive care should be made following the procedures described in the French law of April 2005. Guidelines, based on gestational age and the other prognostic elements, are proposed to the parents before birth. They are applied in an individualized fashion, in order to take into account the individual features of each case. At 25 weeks, resuscitation and/or full intensive care are usually proposed, unless unfavorable factors, such as severe growth restriction, are associated. A senior neonatologist will attend the delivery and will make decisions based on both the baby's condition at birth and the parents' wishes. At 24 weeks, in the absence of unfavorable associated factors, the parents' wishes should be followed in deciding between initiating full intensive care or palliative care. Below 24 weeks, palliative care is the only option to be offered in France at the present time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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