Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Ethical decision-making regarding infant viability: A discussion

Kelly, Janet; Welch, Emma


Profile Image

Dr Janet Kelly
Senior Lecturer in Midwifery and Healthcare Law and Ethics

Emma Welch


© The Author(s) 2016. Background: There are no universally agreed rules of healthcare ethics. Ethical decisions and standards tend to be linked to professional codes of practice when dealing with complex issues. Objectives: This paper aims to explore the ethical complexities on who should decide to give infants born on the borderline of viability lifesaving treatment, parents or the healthcare professionals. Method: The paper is a discussion using the principles of ethics, professional codes of practice from the UK, Nursing Midwifery Council and UK legal case law and statute. Healthcare professionals' experiences that influence parental decision are also considered. Findings & Discussion: There are considerable barriers to an effective discussion taking place in an environment where clinical decisions have to be made quickly once the baby is born. This is compounded by the need and respect for parental autonomy and the difficulties they face when making a best interest's decision knowing that this could cause more harm than good for their infant child and balancing any decision they make with quality of life. Conclusion: On deciding whether to give lifesaving treatment born at the borderline of viability, it should be a joint decision between the parents and the neonatal team.


Kelly, J., & Welch, E. (2018). Ethical decision-making regarding infant viability: A discussion. Nursing Ethics, 25(7), 897-905.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 29, 2016
Online Publication Date Dec 28, 2016
Publication Date Nov 1, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 28, 2016
Journal Nursing ethics
Print ISSN 0969-7330
Electronic ISSN 1477-0989
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 7
Pages 897-905
Keywords Borderline of viability; Decision-making; Ethics; Neonate
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the author's accepted manuscript of an article accepted for publication in: Nursing ethics.
Contract Date Nov 11, 2016


You might also like

Downloadable Citations