Aim To explore the views in non-Western cultures about ending the lives of damaged newborns.
Method 254 university students from India and 150 from Kuwait rated the acceptability of ending the lives of newborns with genetic defects in 54 vignettes consisting of all combinations of four factors: gestational age (term or 7 months); severity of genetic defect (trisomy 21 alone, trisomy 21 with serious morphological abnormalities or trisomy 13 with impending death); the parents’ attitude about prolonging care (unknown, in favour or opposed); and the procedure used (withholding treatment, withdrawing it or injecting a lethal substance).
Results Four clusters were identified by cluster analysis and subjected to analysis of variance. Cluster I, labelled ‘Never Acceptable’, included 4% of the Indians and 59% of the Kuwaitis. Cluster II, ‘No Firm Opinion’, had little variation in rating from one scenario to the next; it included 38% of the Indians and 18% of the Kuwaitis. In Cluster III, ‘Parents’ Attitude+Severity+Procedure’, all three factors affected the ratings; it was composed of 18% of the Indians and 16% of the Kuwaitis. Cluster IV was called ‘Severity+Parents’ Attitude’ because these had the strongest impact; it was composed of 40% of the Indians and 7% of the Kuwaitis.
Conclusions In accordance with the teachings of Islam versus Hinduism, Kuwaiti students were more likely to oppose ending a newborn's life under all conditions, Indian students more likely to favour it and to judge its acceptability in light of the different circumstances.
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