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THE THRESHOLD FOR PERMISSIBLE WITHDRAWAL OF LIFE SUPPORT FROM DISABLED NEWBORN INFANTS

Posted Oct 02 2010 4:28pm
Oxford NICU physician and ethicist Dominic Wilkinson has a new article forthcoming in the American Journal of Bioethics later this Fall:  A LIFE WORTH GIVING? THE THRESHOLD FOR PERMISSIBLE WITHDRAWAL OF LIFE SUPPORT FROM DISABLED NEWBORN INFANTS.  Here is the abstract: 
When is it permissible to allow a newborn infant to die on the basis of their future quality of life? The prevailing official view is that treatment may be withdrawn only if the burdens in an infants’ future life outweigh the benefits. In this paper I outline and defend an alternative view. On the Threshold View treatment may be withdrawn from infants if their future wellbeing is below a threshold that is close to, but above the zero-point of wellbeing. 
I present 4 arguments in favour of the Threshold View, and identify and respond to several counterarguments. I conclude that it is justifiable in some circumstances for parents and doctors to decide to allow an infant to die even though the infant’s life would be worth living. The Threshold View provides a justification for treatment decisions that is more consistent, more robust and potentially more practical than the standard view. 
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