The national caring charity LIFE has welcomed many of the recommendations of the report on neonatal care issued by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The report, released yesterday, is based on intensive consultation with the public and experts and is intended to provide guidelines for specialists in neonatal care. LIFE spokesman Matthew O'Gorman said: "We see much that is good in the Nuffield report. The clear statement against active euthanasia of newborn children is to be welcomed, as is the emphasis on good palliative care for children who are dying and support for their families. It is reassuring to see that the Council is urging the extension of high quality neonatal care across the country. LIFE has a particular interest in the medical care of disabled children, as our sister charity Zoe's Place operates two baby hospices for seriously ill children who need specialist and round the clock care." "We do, however, have reservations about certain parts of the report. Although it says that doctors should base their decisions on "the best interests of the baby", it appears to leave the way open for concerns about resources to play a greater role in future treatment decisions. In addition, the idea that there should be a blanket prohibition on providing intensive care to children born at 22 weeks or below is a deeply worrying one. It is true that it is rare for such children to survive for long, but it is by no means unheard of and we would note that accurate prognosis in neonates can be extremely difficult. We would prefer every child to be considered individually, taking into account the specific circumstances of each case within a sound ethical framework. As the report itself points out, survival rates for neonates have been rising in recent years, meaning that Nuffield's use of the mid-90s EPICure study as a guide to neonate treatment decisions is problematic."
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