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June 2012

Justifiable and Unjustifiable Ageism

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Children's Mercy Bioethics Center, University of Missouri at Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(6):580-581. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.1809

Extremely premature babies are less likely than term babies or older children to receive lifesaving medical treatment. Furthermore, from doctor to doctor and from center to center, there is tremendous variation in the likelihood that an extremely premature baby will be treated. For example, in the 20 centers that are part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network, 87% of babies born at 24 weeks of gestation were intubated in the delivery room.1 Among the centers, the rate of intubation for these babies ranged from 53% to 100%. Fifty-five percent of babies born at 24 weeks of gestation survived. If every baby was intubated, the survival rate would almost certainly have been higher. There is no other population of patients who would not be treated when their survival rates are that high.

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