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Minerva Pediatrica 2006 February;58(1):77-89


language: Italian

Ethics in perinatology

Burgio G. R. 1, Paganelli A. 2, Sampaolo P. 3, Gancia P. 4

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Pediatriche Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia 2 Divisione Ostetricia-Ginecologia Ospedale Vittore Buzzi, Milano 3 Clinica Ostetrico-Ginecologica Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia 4 Terapia Intensiva Neonatale-Neonatologia ASO S.Croce e Carle, Cuneo


The perinatal phase coincides, at its onset (22nd-23rd week of gestation, according to common acknowledgment), with the possible beginning of a extrauterine life susceptible of protraction. The 1st, for some the 4th, week of neonatal life marks the conclusion of the perinatal phase. There are several reasons to burden this period, to which a complex World Health Organization (WHO) document for Europe was dedicated in Novem-bre 2000, with ethical issues. The profound immaturity that characterizes these extremely low weight newborns, of an approximate weight of 500 g, influences the poor survival prognosis (expecially for those born within the 24th week), as well as the limitations concerning quality of life, often severe. Neonates born earlier than the 23rd week are at extreme risk, and rouse critical considerations regarding the choice of a health care program. A close monitoring of pregnancies at risk of premature termination, and a careful program of medical care for these extremely preterms, progressively implemented in the last 10-15 years, have given consistent results, reported in surveys of recent publication. From an ethical point of view, the problem of limitations within or beyond which to stretch intensive care interventions in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is still crucial, being the orientation between rational and emotional a difficult issue. Guidelines or behaviour proposals, variable with time and manifold in different countries, are reported. Naturally, the communication of a severe diagnosis to parents of a newborn even if not preterm-born falls also under the ethical issues of the perinatal period.

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