Premature babies are 'bed blockers'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

One of Britain's colleges of medicine has labelled premature babies requiring expensive neonatal care as "bedblockers".'

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), in evidence to an inquiry into premature births, warns that efforts to save babies born under 25 weeks are hampering the treatment of other infants.

Their evidence to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics reflects a growing view among child specialists that babies born so young should be denied intensive care and allowed to die, according to The Sunday Times.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) will next month debate a motion that it is "unethical" to provide intensive care routinely to babies under 25 weeks. In some cases, the RCOG warns, very premature babies are "blocking" intensive care cots and forcing healthier infants to be moved elsewhere.

Susan Bewley, chairwoman of the ethics committee, said: "I would prefer that every baby could be treated, but resources are not endless."

It can cost up to £1,000 a day to treat very premature babies in a neonatal intensive care bed. These babies can require months of care.

Research to be presented to the RCPCH conference shows that babies born at 25 weeks or under cost almost three times as much to educate by the time they reach the age of six as those born at full term.

About 800 babies are born under 25 weeks each year. Medical advances mean about 39 per cent of those born at 24 weeks now survive and 17 per cent of those at 23 weeks.

The RCOG statement to the Nuffield inquiry says: "Some weight should be given to the economic considerations as there is a real issue in neonatal units of 'bed blocking', whereby women have to be transferred in labour to other units compromising both their and their babies' care."

Saving babies only in exceptional circumstances would shift Britain towards practice in Holland, which is the only European country that accepts such babies should die.

Professor Sir Alan Craft, the president of the RCPCH, said: "The vast majority of children born at this gestation who do survive have significant disabilities. Lifetime costs need to be taken into the equation when society tries to decide whether it wants to intervene."

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