From Birth to Death? A Personalist Approach to End-of-Life Care of Severely Ill Newborns

Christian Bioethics 19 (1):7-24 (2013)
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In this paper, a personalist ethical perspective on end-of-life care of severely ill newborns is presented by posing two questions. (1) Is it ethically justified to decide not to start or to withdraw life-sustaining treatment in severely ill newborns? (2) Is it ethically justified, in exceptional cases, to actively terminate the life of severely ill newborns? Based on five values—respect for life and for the dignity of the human person, quality of life, respect for the process of dying, relational autonomy, and justice—an ethical assessment is conducted that brings us answers to the two ethical questions. (1) Noninitiation or withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment in severely ill newborns is ethically acceptable, and might even be a moral duty, when initiation or continuation of medical treatment can be considered futile or even harmful. (2) However, according to the personalist approach, it is not ethically acceptable to actively terminate the life of a severely ill newborn



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