Determining the best interests of the critically ill neonate
It is regrettable that some neonates are born with life-threatening conditions or become seriously ill shortly after birth. In the majority of cases, the neonate's parents make decisions about their baby's care and treatment with the advice and support of midwives and doctors. On occasion, however, the views of the parents are at odds with those of the team treating the baby and a formal decision on the best interests of the neonate must be made, often by a judge of the Family Division of the High Court.
The test for best interests of critically ill babies is firmly based in common law and has been developed by the courts as cases have been brought for judgment over the last 30 years. Over that time, the courts have had the opportunity to consider each aspect of the care of critically ill babies and the test for best interests has become ever more sophisticated and extends beyond a mere balancing of the risks and benefits of continued treatment.
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