At the Annual Congress of the Perinatal Society of Australia & New Zealand, a panel of researchers has recommended that babies born prematurely at 23 weeks should be allowed to die naturally, while those born at 24 weeks or later must be committed to intensive care.
Dr Lui, a senior lecturer in the School of Women's and Children's Health at the University of NSW, who headed the group of doctors, nurses and parents that developed the recommendations, said that this age parameters should convince parents of very premature babies that nothing can be done for their situation. "At 24 weeks we'd recommend transfer to a specialist centre [before birth], but there can still be an option of non-intervention," he said. These recommendations are based on new research from NSW and the ACT. Liu added that this did not mean that treatment should be withheld from other pre-mature babies, but decisions should be made on individual cases. Out of the 209 pregnancies ended at 23 weeks between 1998 and 2001 only 89 babies were born alive. Half of them received intensive treatment, but only 14 survived, the research found. By the time these 14 were aged 3, only 4 had no disabilities. Janet Carey, national executive, research and programs, for the charity SIDS and Kids welcomed these recommendations, "When your child dies before you, you always feel guilty, even if irrationally so," she told Sydney Morning Herald. "If you've got a guideline, that takes away responsibility from the parent to some extent."