Legal, moral and ethical dilemmas in the newborn nursery

A. Shaw, M. Shapo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infants with severe physical deformities and mental retardation syndromes who have surgically correctable, but otherwise lethal malformations, such as intestinal atresia, present serious ethical and legal problems when their parents refuse to sign permission for life saving surgery. In recent months a number of cases similar to the one presented have been adjudicated in courts around the country. In many of these, the judges have ruled that the right to life is paramount and that surgery should be done. In at least one case a physician has been threatened with criminal charges under the state Child Abuse Law. Such decisions by judges and prosecuting attorneys highlight the importance of continued discussion among professional and lay groups of the ethical and moral problems in medical decision making, in order to prevent the development of a body of rigid inflexible law which does not permit considerations of quality of life in judicial ruling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1065
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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