Saturday, October 22, 2011

Four Corners - Premature Babies

I just finished watching Four Corners and tonight's show was about babies born at 23 weeks gestation. Wow what a show. Not only did it show a baby being born at 23 weeks and then after a few hours losing it's battle but it also showed a story about a baby girl born at 23 weeks who eventually at 5 months old was able to go home. The debate is so touchy - do you resuscitate a baby born at 23 weeks or not? The Dutch position for example is that they don't . There is no debate, no negotiation - it is policy that babies born at 23 weeks are given to the parents right after they are born to die in their arms. In places like England and Australia on the other hand they leave the decision up to the parents. The show debated on whether that was the wrong thing to do or not. Grief stricken parents being given the decision to possibly save their baby. The stats are staggering - only 9 out of every 100 babies born at 23 weeks will survive. 6 of those 9 will be severely disabled and only 1 out of those 9 will go on to live a "normal" life.

The debate of course centres around $$. Where should funds be allocated? The position of many is that it is not "worth the money" to try and save these babies when most likely they will die anyways. The baby girl I mentioned above that got to go home after 5 months of being in the hospital was given AUD$155,000 worth of care and there are many that say it was not worth it to spend that kind of money when resources could have been better spent/used elsewhere. There is no clear cut answer. There really is no right or wrong. As a mother I couldn't imagine having to make that decision. Do you give your child a chance at life or are you doing more harm than good if they end up being one of the 91/100 that don't end up surviving and have had to suffer till the end or end up being one of the 6/100 that are severely disabled. Or you could be the lucky 1/100 and have a child that makes it through and thrives. I don't have any answers or even an opinion to be honest. I really don't know what to think or say. The problem arises as well in  the English system (not sure how it works here in Australia) that these premature babies are given all kinds of care up till they are 18 (physio, therapy etc) but once they hit 18 they are on their own. All the funding stops etc which I think is horrible. I will leave you with this...they had an adult on the show who was born at 26 weeks and has severe disabilities and she said something so powerful... "if you are going to spend all this money to keep me in this world when I was born, then you should be spending all the money you need to to keep me in this world until I die".

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