Withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment for newborn infants from a Christian perspective.

Research paper by Michael M Scott-Joynt

Indexed on: 20 Jan '12Published on: 20 Jan '12Published in: Early Human Development


The more vulnerable a person, of whatever age, therefore, the more there must be a presumption in favour of life; and care must be offered with particular respect and dignity, and in the best interests of the infant her/himself, not in those of others. The principles, that guide Christians in making ethical healthcare decisions, were derived from two core Christian beliefs: that all human beings, of whatever age, are "made in the image of God"--so human beings have a distinctive dignity and value, and may not be treated as possessions or commodities; and that we are therefore made to live relationally--so communal, as well as individual, perspectives ought to be considered in ethical decision-making. The article then notes and explores three areas in which it may not be in the infant's best interests for life-sustaining treatment to continue or to be initiated, noting the complexity of "quality of life" questions, and the danger of considering others' quality of life over that of the infant. So, to safeguard the vulnerable, the threshold for acceptable "quality of life" needs to be set at a "low" level; and a distinction should be drawn, in considering withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, between medical intervention and "assisted-care" - so that there are very limited circumstances in which life-sustaining treatments ought to be withheld or withdrawn from newborn infants.