RDN on BBC1’s “Big Questions” on premature babies

Posted by RDN under On TV & Radio / Politics & campaigns on 6 March 2011

I had an outing on BBC1’s Big Questions and on the issue of extremely premature babies missed an important note or two… 

We were discussing issues arising from Adam Wishart’s film, 23 Week Babies: The price of life.

I should have stressed that, on the evidence (not least from the brave Dr Daphne Austin),  aggressive intervention in these cases is a matter of what one might call “cruel and unusual treatment”.  

If we know that only 1 in 100 of these babies have worthwhile life expectations, then we cannot inflict suffering on 99 babies so as to “discover” the “lucky” baby.

So it is not just shortage of money or love which most makes the survival of these babies problematic.

What’s more these are society’s issues. That there are parents who commit themselves to the survival of their own premature baby does not make a case for generalised intervention, but they do pitch the personal against the social. So doctors, lawyers and moralists have to get involved.

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