Rejecting the baby Doe rules and defending a "negative" analysis of the best interests standard

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 30 (4):331 – 352 (2005)
Abstract
Two incompatible policies exist for guiding medical decisions for extremely premature, sick, or terminally ill infants, the Best Interests Standard and the newer, 20-year old "Baby Doe" Rules. The background, including why there were two sets of Baby Doe Rules, and their differences with the Best Interests Standard, are illustrated. Two defenses of the Baby Doe Rules are considered and rejected. The first, held by Reagan, Koop, and others, is a "right-to-life" defense. The second, held by some leaders of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that the Baby Doe Rules are benign and misunderstood. The Baby Doe Rules should be rejected since they can thwart compassionate and individualized decision-making, undercut duties to minimize unnecessary suffering, and single out one group for treatment adults would not want for themselves. In these ways, they are inferior to the older Best Interests Standard. A "negative" analysis of the Best Interests Standard is articulated and defended for decision-making for all incompetent individuals.
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