Suffering patients (when able), grieving families and compassionate physicians have always sought the least detrimental alternative while deciding care in the face of tragedy. Modern medical technology has brought great benefits to patients but has blurred traditional concepts of life and death and created new dilemmas for practising doctors. While this technology has given doctors great control over living and dying, their dominance in critical decision making is being challenged. More and more their decisions are liable to public and legal scrutiny, intense publicity by the news media and exploitation by lobbyists with opposing aims. Increasing pressure of this kind may deflect the physician form his primary responsibility to patients and their families. For infants with gross malformations or a distressing terminal illness we believe that the parents and their doctors must be allowed primary decisional power even if the chosen course of action involves the death of the infant. Choices for death should be permitted but only after suitable family and professional consultation. Some general guidelines are suggested. As these situations are so varied and so complex, much latitude in decision-making should be expected and tolerated.
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