Dear readers, I feel I must gently and good naturedly take you to task. Although the comments to the last post brought up interesting aspects of the topic, there were two central questions in the post, two issues that are the crux of the matter, that no commenter ventured to specifically answer. Those questions are:
1. At what gestation is it permissible to not resuscitate a premature baby? In other words, at what rate of survival and disability is it permissible to not resuscitate a premature baby? I know it's hard to give a specific number, yet that is what neonatologists are required to do at times, especially if there is a disagreement between the parents and neonatologist about resuscitation.
2. Is it age discrimination to say it's okay to let a newly born 24 weeker die, given that their survival rate is 55 - 60%, when we would not allow that if it were an older child? There seems to be something about the extremes of life ages, at the very beginning and the very end, when it is acceptable to let someone die, when we wouldn't do so if it were, for example, a 10 or 20 or 30 year old. A 90 year old woman with cancer that has a 55% chance of cure with chemotherapy? Most people would find it acceptable if she opted to forego treatment, preferring to die instead of undergo the hardships of the cure. Similarly, many think it's okay to not aggressively resuscitate a 24 weeker when they are a few seconds old. But we would really wonder about a 25 year old woman with cancer with a 55% cure rate if she didn't opt for treament.
One commenter - Ariella - said it was legally and ethically wrong for me to not respect parents' wishes if they didn't want resuscitation done on a 24 weeker. I appreciate her opinion, but Ariell, surely somewhere there is a survival rate at which we must resuscitate the baby even against the parents' wishes. What is it?
Finally, I just want to reiterate what Becca said, that there is a difference beween functional impairment and quality of life. Very true - people with disabilities can have an excellent quality of life, even if they cannot do some of the things we think are important.
P.S. Last night I watched the movie "The Ringer" on dvd. I recommend it, especially for anyone who thinks that people with disabilities don't have a good quality of life.