Survival Rate for Extremely Premature Babies ‘Doubles in a Decade’

Premature babies are at high risk of survival, but as per recent data one third of these babies survive. Therefore, the new clinical guideline recommends to the medical staff to routinely attempt to save the lives of babies born as early as 22 weeks.

Medicine has experienced great progress in the last decades and that has raised the survival chances of extremely premature babies. The percentage rate of survival in premature babies who have been treated has doubled in just over a decade.

Nonetheless, this released guideline advices doctors to do their best in saving the lives of these tiny living beings.

This guideline was welcomed by the pro-life campaigners, who ask reduction in the 24-week abortion limit as this allows for the baby to have a long and healthy life.

10 years ago the very early premature babies could not survive this very early birth especially the ones before the 23-week of pregnancy. When such birth occurred the guideline suggested to the doctors to offer the palliative care to these babies in order to make their remaining days or months comfortable.

It turned out that this care was successful in 35% or the premature babies as by 2016 it saved their lives and they stayed alive a year later.

The British Association of Prenatal Medicine New has released the new guideline suggesting the doctors to attempt to resuscitate the babies born very early before their due-time. According to the guidelines it is “’appropriate” to attempt to extend the lives of these babies even knowing the fact that probably a third of the premature who have survived might be with severe disabilities.

The wishes of the parents must be taken into consideration and each case should be carefully analyzed even though a large percentage of these babies may not survive or be left with serious disabilities.

Regarding this issue the guideline author, Dominic Wilkinson, a professor of medical ethics at the University of Oxford, explained that these are “complex ethical decisions” that cannot be made into simple rules.

The professor stated the following:

“What we encourage is the idea that decisions have to be made on a case by case basis, what we have to acknowledge is that it is appropriate to attempt intensive care for some babies born this early, those who have favorable risk factors where parents have been counseled and wish this to be tried.

Other babies at 22 weeks with unfavorable risk factors may be at extremely high risk of dying or of suffering very severe complication and in that situation the framework recommends that palliative care would be the normal approach.”

Further on, he stated:

“One of the issues is that medicine is continually evolving and what we have put together is a framework based on what we know at this point in time. Babies developing in the womb are only developing the very earliest parts of the lung able to exchange oxygen at 22 weeks gestation, and because of that some can just survive at 22 weeks but before that point they have no ability to get oxygen into their blood.

We can’t say what might be possible in the future but we are coming up against the limits of physiology.”

As we mentioned before a contradiction occurred in the 24-week abortion limit and John Deighan, deputy chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, emphasized the  “shocking contradiction” to save babies born before the 24-week and to allow the abortion at this week. He said: “We rightly recognize the value of tiny premature lives in these new policies, so how can we continue to permit laws which allow the killing of babies at the same age through elective abortion?”

On this point the British Pregnancy Advisory Service spokeswoman stated the following: “There is no contradiction between doing all we can so that babies born long before they are ready for the world have a chance of living, and ensuring that the very small number of women who need to end pregnancies in the final weeks of the second trimester, often in incredibly tragic and desperate circumstances can do so.” 

The guideline author, the Professor Wilkinson maintained that the abortion limit is a “sensitive” issue for the whole society, but it is not in his domain to make any comments on the reduction of the abortion limit.