Evaluating the lives of micro-preemies on a cost/value basis?

by Peter Serven on June 18th, 2011

Are ultra micro-preemies too costly?

I’ve been pondering an article that examined the above perspective, and raised the following questions:

Should we continue to preserve the lives of babies whose “quality of life” may be considered sub-par (blindness, learning difficulties, complex medical challenges, etc)?

At what point does preserving these babies’ lives become too great a burden, financially and in other ways?

Should we be working to save these lives at an earlier and earlier age, or should we keep the frontiers of preemie care at the status quo?

Should we really invest 1, 2, even 3 million dollars on one baby’s life?

Our answers to these questions depend on our underlying worldview. If we are Christians we should say, “Yes, absolutely!” Life is life is life, and we believe in preserving life at whatever cost. This is what set the early Christians apart from their pagan neighbors: they would pick the deformed and unwanted babies out of the gutter and care for and raise them at great cost to themselves. As Christians we believe that the preservation of life is an inherently worthwhile use of technology, resources, and finances.

This is not necessarily so if our underlying religious philosophy is that of man centered pragmatism. As scripture clearly tells us, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25). It also tells us that, to the world the things of God are “foolishness” (I Cor. 2:14). How so? From a purely “pragmatic” perspective, is it really humane to allow a child into this world who has the very real potential to suffer from ongoing disabilities? How much money, time and resources should we spend on attempting to save babies at a younger and younger age?

Do you doubt whether people actually think this way?

Take a look at this article from Business Week. Here is an excerpt:

“Does this relentless push to care for ever younger infants serve the interests of the babies, their parents, or society? Critics of the trend note that about one-third of preemies suffer from severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, and blindness. A 2006 report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent British group, recommended that preemies struggling for their lives after 22 weeks of gestation should not be given intensive care.

“The Nuffield report ignited a firestorm over the ethics of early interventions and the impact on the children and their families. The ProLife Alliance, an anti-abortion lobby, urged hospitals to lower the viability threshold for preemies to 20 weeks. But that doesn’t sit well with many experts in preterm births. In an April, 2008, report in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development in Washington concluded that ‘extending intensive care to the most immature infants would entail considerable suffering, resource use, and cost in order to benefit only a small proportion of infants.’ Elderly patients who are subjected to painful, drawn-out hospital procedures can urge doctors not to take further drastic measures; preemies who suffer through heroic interventions have no such voice.”

Yes, many are coming from the cost/value perspective.

Let me tie this back into the Foundation for Preemie Aid. Our goal is to provide a third option for the parents of preemies to meet their overwhelming financial burdens through voluntary giving and the body of Christ, rather than through accepting government welfare on the one hand, or going bankrupt on the other.

Why? Because scripture gives the body of Christ, NOT the civil government, the clear-cut role to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

By allowing the State to meet these financial needs and rejecting its God-given responsibility, the Church has virtually given up any real say-so over the question, “Should we save these babies?” The entity paying the bills, the State, is now at the helm when it comes to wading through this controversial issue, and honestly I don’t trust our civil government to come to the right conclusions! Do you?

Who do you feel should be answering the above questions? Should we step up to the plate as the body of Christ? What are your thoughts on the matter?

In Christ,

Tait Z.