Baby O and the Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment in the Devastated Neonate: A Review of Clinical, Ethical, and Legal Issues

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Abstract

The discontinuation of life sustaining medical treatment (LSMT) in severely and permanently impaired neonates, especially artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) is subject to uncertainty and controversy. Definitive clinical guidelines are lacking, clinical research is limited, ethical disagreement is commonplace, and while case and statutory law provide legal underpinning for the practice in defined circumstances, uncertainty in this realm likely influences clinical practice. We use the case of a neurologically devastated neonate to highlight and review these arenas, and show how, using available legal, ethical, and clinical standards and practice, the case of Baby O was resolved, and to underline the need for further research in neonatal palliative care.

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