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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Uncertainties regarding the diagnosis, prognosis, and possible outcomes of treatment for impaired newborns present an array of legal and ethical dilemmas to those who must decide what care to provide for them. The recently enacted federal Child Abuse Amendments of 1984 and accompanying "Baby Doe" regulations, designed to protect against withholding medically indicated treatment, add further complexity to the decision-making process. This Article begins by examining the factors involved in medical decision-making for impaired newborns. It then discusses the implications of the Baby Doe regulations, focusing on three procedural mechanisms that could satisfy the requirements of the regulations. Finding drawbacks in all three possibilities, the Article suggests that the infant care review committees endorsed by the Department of Health and Human Services in its "Model Guidelines" offer an alternative solution to the problems involved in treatment decisions. The Article reviews the experience of one hospital's ethics advisory committee, concluding that the committee provided means of ensuring proper treatment. Finally, the Article proposes a model state statute as a more effective approach to addressing the Baby Doe problem.

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