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Recognising our ‘invisible infants’: there is no internationally agreed definition of live birth—is this ethically acceptable?
  1. Jennifer Peterson
  1. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, St Mary's Maternity Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jennifer Peterson, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester M13 9WL, Greater Manchester, UK; jennifer.peterson{at}


Globally, there is a lack of adherence to the WHO definition of live birth. This is leading to untenable ethical inconsistencies due to significant variation in which infants are being acknowledged and registered as alive. If an infant is not registered as alive, there can be no acknowledgement of their rights as a child, and there are subsequent implications for worldwide child health resources and funding. Being alive should not be a quality that is geographically determined. This paper explores the differing definitions that are used regarding live birth and the ethical and practical implications for infants, their families and child health worldwide.

  • neonatology
  • clinical ethics
  • applied and professional ethics

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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