Life support stopped for brain-dead baby

A hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture stopped life support for an 18-day-old baby last year after judging him brain dead, even though there is no established criteria to judge brain death for infants younger than 3 months old, the hospital said Sunday.

The incident may add fuel to a debate over terminal cases for newborn babies as doctors have been struggling to find appropriate treatment.

The hospital said it unplugged a life-supporting device on the boy in September 2003 after what it considered adequate consultations with the boy’s parents and social workers.

The hospital said it regards the case as an example of “palliative care,” which allows a patient to die at ease after being confirmed brain dead.

The hospital said it made certain the parents understood there were no clear criteria to judge brain death for such a young baby.

The boy was born in a state of apparent death at another hospital and was immediately taken to the second hospital, which confirmed him as being brain dead.

The doctors examined him for brain death five days after his birth.

Having obtained the parents’ consent the following month, the doctors removed the boy from an artificial respirator. His heart stopped beating as his parents watched, according to the hospital.

The doctors used the criteria to judge brain death of those aged 3 months or older, compiled in 2000 by the health ministry.