June 1985

Selective Nontreatment of Handicapped Newborns

Author Affiliations

Arizona Health Sciences Center 1501 N Campbell Ave Tucson, AZ 85724


by R. Weir, 292 pp, $27.95, New York, Oxford University Press, 1984.

Am J Dis Child. 1985;139(6):631. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1985.02140080101043

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Some 15 years ago, I was asked by my department chairman to teach a course on "Ethical Dilemmas in Pediatrics." At that time there were few reference sources available, particularly with regard to handicapped newborns. I found then that the following two factors loomed large in the treatment of these infants: (1) decisions were sometimes made before all the facts were known, and (2) decisions were, in some instances, strongly influenced by emotion rather than sound medical judgment. The recent "Baby Doe" furor has shown that both these problems remain.

This book is divided into seven basic areas, beginning with a review of infanticide. It continues with a description of the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatricians' views on selective nontreatment, the potential criminal liability involved in selective nontreatment, ethical options and criteria, clinical applications, and concludes with procedural recommendations. The book is, in general, fair, balanced, and accurate. It offers

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