Prenatal Consultation for Extremely Preterm Neonates: Ethical Pitfalls and Proposed Solutions
Jennifer C. Kett
In current practice, decisions regarding whether or not to resuscitate infants born at the limits of viability are generally made with expectant parents during a prenatal consultation with a neonatologist. This article reviews the current practice of prenatal consultation and describes three areas in which current practice is ethically problematic: (1) risks to competence, (2) risks to information, and (3) risks to trust. It then reviews solutions that have been suggested in the literature, and the drawbacks to each. Finally, it suggests that the model of prenatal consultation be altered in three ways: (1) that the prenatal consultation be viewed as a process over time, rather than a onetime event; (2) that decision making in the prenatal consultation be framed as a choice between nonresuscitation and a trial of neonatal intensive care, rather than a choice between “doing nothing” and “doing everything”; and (3) that the prenatal consultation process devote serious attention to both the transfer of information and the non-informational needs of families, rather than focus on the transfer of information alone.
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