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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011 Oct;24 Suppl 1:126-8. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.607672. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

Reconciling ethical and legal aspects in neonatal intensive care.

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  • 1NICU, Hospital of Bolzano, Italy.


During the last two decades there has been an enormous development in treatment possibilities for the extremely premature infants and the Neonatologists have to face in their daily practice many decisional problems and ethical, moral and legal dilemmas. These concern decisions to initiate or withhold treatment directly at birth, decision to withdrawn treatment with the possible consequence that the child will die. The debate between "sanctity" and "quality" of life, aggressive treatment in relation to discrimination toward the disabled, the principle of "beneficence" and the question of "proportionality" of treatment, the concept of the newborn's "best interest" are the ethical issues discussed. According to our opinion, ethical questions should not be regulated by law and the legal system should not interfere in the relationship patient - physician. Today more than ever, every neonatologist needs to become familiar with basic ethical concepts and the legal aspects in neonatal intensive care.

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