A recent article from the National Post is making waves. Check out the article: Canadian pediatricians recommend letting 22-week-old preemies die. Should doctors try to save the tiny newborns? This article is heavy, but an important issue that is affecting the care options for parents of preemies born at 22 and 23 weeks.
The article begins with a story about a baby whose mother’s water broke mid-pregnancy. Doctors warn the mother that the baby is too young for care if born before 23 weeks. Four days later at 22 weeks, the baby was born at home and both are taken to the emergency unit. Both mom and baby are given care, but doctors pleaded to take the baby off life support. Babies born before 22 weeks are recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society to die naturally as they cannot survive without life support and are prone to many additional health issues. The mother resisted, and now today has a happy six-year-old boy with some physical and neurological disabilities.
Should Doctors Provide Care For Preemies Born At 22 Weeks?
In Favor Of Care
Medicine and science have come a long way, but we still have a lot of learning to do. A recent America study by the New England Journal of Medicine found with care 23 percent of these preemies survived and 9 percent survive without even moderate disabilities. This puts the 22-week cutoff for care up to some serious debate when the margin of error for determining gestational age can vary by up to a week. For those of you who do not live with a scientist in your home like I do, this means that a 22-week old baby is in actuality somewhere between 21 weeks old and 23 weeks old. Science cannot pinpoint down the exact point of conception when determining the age of a fetus. (Knowing what night you had an extra glass of wine is not the accuracy scientists need.)
This makes a hard cutoff at 22 weeks tough and your doctor’s approach can vary. Some doctors will give parents the choice of intensive care in the delivery room if the baby is 22 or 23 weeks old. Others will cite the guidelines and allow the baby to pass with the parents naturally. Without intensive care, these children do not survive more than a few hours. Depending on your doctor’s views, the care you receive can vary. Check out what one of our Facebook followers thinks:
In Favor Of Peace
Advocates in favor of following the current guidelines feel that support for a 22-week old baby is not helpful to parents or children. If the child does survive, they can be left with severe impairments that hinder everyday life. Nurses and physicians can sometimes find it difficult with these cases, as they know they are aiding a child who will spend much of their life struggling. If the child does survive there is a high risk of disabilities such as blindness, cerebral palsy, and other more severe cognitive disorders.
One parent noted it was easier to let the physician make the decision. When given the decision, parents can be left with many feelings of resentment and guilt no matter which decision they chose. Compassion for preemies that are not yet fully formed and look more sci-fi than adorable complicates the issue.
On our Facebook feed even nurses are grappling with this tough choice:
Readers, do you think preemie babies who are 22 or 23 weeks old should be placed on intensive care, or should doctors continue to follow the current guidelines?
(Image Credit: Hey Paul Studios)