Avoiding anomalous newborns: preemptive abortion, treatment thresholds and the case of baby Messenger
In its American context the case of baby Messenger, a preterm infant disconnected from life-support by his father and allowed to die has generated debate about neonatal treatment protocols. Limited by the legal and ethical norms of the United States, this case did not consider treatment protocols that might be available in other countries such as Denmark and Israel: threshold protocols whereby certain classes of newborns are not treated, and preemptive abortion allowing one to choose late-term abortion rather than risk delivery. Each offers a viable and ethically sound avenue for dealing with the economic and social expense of anomalous newborns by aborting or not treating those most likely to burden the health care system. Objections that these protocols are antithetical to American bioethical principles are considered but rejected as each policy answers to economic justice, utility and respect for autonomy.
Michael L Gross, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science,The University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.