Severely Handicapped Babies and the Law
Lancet. 1986 Apr 26; 1(8487): 984-985.
According to British law, a nonviable handicapped fetus may be aborted, as may a viable one, to preserve maternal life. A handicapped newborn has full legal status. Brahams contends, however, that court actions concerning these newborns have been mixed. She cites different cases in which treatment has been ordered, omission of treatment has been disregarded, the sanctity of handicapped life has been proclaimed, or a jury has acquitted a physician of attempted murder for withholding treatment. The author questions whether the emotional, financial, and moral costs of attempting to save all handicapped newborns are not too high because resources are limited and there is no absolute state duty to provide optimal treatment. She notes that a proposed bill to limit treatment for handicapped newborns under 28 days old is regarded by many as a worse alternative than the present disregard of existing law. (KIE abstract)
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