J Med Ethics 42:643-648 doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103534
  • Clinical ethics
  • Paper

Why do parents decline newborn intramuscular vitamin K prophylaxis?

  1. Benjamin J Wheeler3
  1. 1Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. 3Department of Women's and Children's Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Benjamin J Wheeler, Women's and Children's Health, University of Otago, Dunedin School of Medicine, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; ben.wheeler{at}
  • Received 14 March 2016
  • Revised 25 May 2016
  • Accepted 22 June 2016
  • Published Online First 8 August 2016


Objective To explore the influencing factors and reasoning of parents who opt out of intramuscular vitamin K prophylaxis for their newborn.

Design We conducted a qualitative study with 15 families from the Otago/Southland region of New Zealand. Semistructured interviews explored their choice to opt out of intramuscular vitamin K prophylaxis and thematic analysis was used to elucidate themes that captured important aspects of this parental decision-making process.

Results Parents opt out of intramuscular vitamin K for a variety of reasons. These were clustered into three main themes: parents' beliefs and values (philosophy and spirituality), concerns about their child's welfare (pain and potential side effects) and external influencing factors (family, friends, media and health professionals). As part of a wider family hesitancy towards medical intervention, the majority of parents also raised concerns regarding other perinatal or childhood interventions.

Conclusion Many factors influence parental decision making and lead to a decision to opt out of newborn intramuscular vitamin K prophylaxis. Due to strong parallels with other common childhood interventions, these findings have relevance for vitamin K prophylaxis and for other healthcare interventions in childhood.

Free sample
This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of JME.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

Navigate This Article