Should 23 week babies be resuscitated or allowed to die? Featureworld interviewees Carla Hart and partner Antony Brown talk about their experience with baby Jed in an article in THE SUN newspaper today.
Carla and Antony, the parents of Jed, who was born at 23 weeks and is now an adorable and healthy toddler, have joined other mums and dads of premature babies who were upset at last night’s BBC2 documentary.
The documentary followed a number of parents who’d given birth to babies at this crucial 23rd week – which is currently on the cusp of life. But although a well structured documentary, which showed a surviving baby, one fighting for its life and one which, despite doctor’s best efforts, died shortly after being born – it struck me as somewhat one sided.
Seemingly edited to side with the view of the narrator – basically he claims 23 week babies should be left to die as it would spare them pain of treatment, and save the NHS money as so many grow up disabled and then need expensive care – it somewhat demonised parents who naturally wanted their child to live.
This was done by cutting to various medical staff who were ultimately critical of these parents, saying out of earshot if it were them, they would let their 23 week baby die.
And I was also rather baffled by one medic’s view that ‘we have reached the stage where we can push nature any further.’ Really? Thirty years ago IVF was just a dream; when I had my first child, the abortion limit was 28 weeks. So I found this an odd view from a professional – after all, whether we like it or not, science is always progressing and pushing boundaries so might well find a way to do without a uterus altogether in future. And so I’m sure in future younger babies will survive and doctors will perfect their treatment.
There was also a glaring anomaly. We had a physiotherapist saying such children, if they are disabled, are not given adequate funding on the NHS to help. She talked a lot and made it sound as if thousands of adult 23 weekers were in this situation, that it was a huge problem and sucking the NHS dry. But then we were also told that hardly any 23 week babies do actually survive (the narrator using this argument to further prove trying was also pointless as they usually died anyway after a few weeks) and it is only in the last few years such babies have been treated. And I can think of many other things that cost the NHS far, far more. Alcohol for one…
Which brings me to the main point. If you are ill tomorrow and become disabled, should doctors decide you might be too much of a drain on the NHS and let you die? Where do you draw the line?
Yes, life isn’t perfect. It might be painful and involve a struggle. But even if their premature baby does die, parents I’ve spoken to all say they need to feel they did all they could to give that child the chance of life.
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Perhaps it’s because my own ‘kids’ are aged 22, 20 and 19 – but I do feel young people often, wrongly, get a bad press. So it was refreshing last night to watch two programmes, which showed people in their twenties in such a good light.
First up – the new series of Channel 4’s Country House Rescue. This is where Ruth Watson visits a usually crumbling and dilapidated old mansion where the family is at odds over the best way to save it. It’s an appealing programme not only because of its nose into how the other half live, but because it’s the only time when you come away relieved you don’t live in a rambling old castle.
Last night’s episode was no exception as we took a tour of historic Wyresdale Park in Lancashire and met the traditional James, his wife, Sally and son, Jim, 29. The estate had fallen into disrepair and now father and son were ‘at war’ over how best to keep it afloat and pay for the repairs. James, a farmer, admitted they needed more income but stated, ‘I don’t like anything commercial’ whereas son Jim, who organised large music events and lived in a trendy part of East London, felt the best way forward was to knock the crumbling out-buildings down and hold events there. Mum Sally – interestingly, she’d met the wealthy James as a student when he was her landlord and she rented one of his many properties – saw both sides.
The programme developed into perfect Sunday night viewing (preferably watched with tea and a cream scone) as Ruth worked out a plan to develop the outbuildings as a tea room (for the stream of ramblers rambling past the house), mini farm and arts and crafts shop. It was lovely to see son Jim, sensitive enough to his father not to battle on about his events, and welcome this idea. Incredibly, some 1000 people turned up on the day. That said, whether serving teas in a tent on a regular basis to eke out a living was quite what pink-faced wife Sally had in mind when she married James remains to be seen…
Meanwhile, BBC3’s Junior Doctors makes emotional viewing. This week’s programme has concentrated on how the young doctors cope with death and realising they can’t save everyone’s life. We saw Lucy genuinely moved when she discovered one patient was dying from pancreatic cancer and Adam trying to make a patient’s last days as comfortable as possible. But surely the most watchable is laid-back Jon, who despite his generous size (you do worry for his health when you see him sweating as he races down the corridor to a cardiac arrest) seems to take every emergency in his stride. And the quiet confidence he exudes makes you forget he is fresh out of medical school.
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