Anger as docs say 'let early tots die'
By Robert Stansfield
PREMATURE babies who spent weeks in hospital have been branded "bed blockers" by leading doctors.
They say infants born under 25 weeks should be denied help and allowed to die to avoid £1,000-a-day intensive-care cots being wasted.
The financial drain is putting the lives of healthier babies at risk as expectant mums are turned away because of the shortage of cots.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says: "Some weight should be given to the economic considerations as there is a real issue in neo-natal units of 'bed blocking'."
They suggest Britain should follow the practice in Holland where babies born so young are not given help and are allowed to die.
But the proposal angered the parents of healthy David Thomas, two, who was born 24 weeks premature and spent four months in intensive care.
His mother Michelle, a psychiatric nurse from Oxford, said: "Not to have given David the right to life would have been unethical."
Tiny Joey McCormich was given a 90 per cent chance of survival after he was born four months early three weeks ago.
His father Daniel, a chef from Norwich, said: "The doctors behind the proposals must regard Joey as a number and an expense but to us he is our little boy."
Joey's doctor Paul Clarke said: "To me it all sounds too much like attempts to bring in involuntary euthanasia at the opposite end of life."
Next month, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health will debate whether it is unethical to routinely provide intensive care for premature babies.
Susan Bewley, chairwoman of the ethics committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "I would prefer that every baby could be treated but we cannot get away from the fact resources are not endless."
About 800 babies are born each year under 25 weeks, compared with the normal 40-week term.
About 39 per cent of those born at 24 weeks survive and 17 per cent of those at 23 weeks.
A neo-natal intensive care bed costs about £1,000 a day and some babies require treatment for up to four months.
Babies born at 25 weeks or under also cost almost three times as much to educate by the time they reach the age of six as those born at full term - £9,500 a year compared with £3,900.
Professor Sir Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, said: "Many paediatricians would be in favour of adopting the Dutch model of no active intervention for these very little babies.
"The vast majority of children born at this gestation who do survive have significant disabilities. There is a lifetime cost and that needs to be taken into the equation."
But premature baby charity Bliss demanded greater NHS investment to solve the problem. Chief executive Rob Williams said: "We need a bill of rights for babies, who seem to be at the bottom of the priority list." firstname.lastname@example.org
How can they get away with this all prem babies should get help,i lost my first babies to potters syndrome,and my youngest daughter was born at 10 wks prem she is 13 now but without help she wouldn't have been here she was ventalated, when do they think it is right to not help babies,those who have lost a baby only know how much this destroys a mother for life.
The doctors would do anything to help there own familys i'm sure.