Some 85 percent of hospitals well-versed in treating newborns in Japan acknowledge scaling back or stopping treatment of terminally ill babies to allow them to spend their remaining days in peace with their families, according to doctors at an Osaka hospital.

A survey conducted by Dr. Masahisa Funato of Yodogawa Christian Hospital found that these hospitals have come to accept the idea that allowing a baby to be nursed by its family to a peaceful death is better than extending its life slightly through rigorous treatment.

However, there are concerns that the tendency to give up on treating seriously ill babies may result in lives being lost unnecessarily and would go against the mission of doctors to fight illnesses to the greatest degree possible.

Funato said his survey team sent questionnaires to 157 medical institutions with neonatal intensive care units in September and October last year and received responses from 111 of them.

The team found that 94 hospitals, or 85 percent, said they had experienced cases in which they either refrained from administering aggressive treatment or completely stopped treatment, including artificial respiration.

Only 54 institutions said their nurses take an active part in deciding how to treat sick babies, while 37, or one in three, said nurses offer an opinion if asked by doctors.

Asked about who they believe should make the final decision in the event that the parents of a sick child express their wish that treatment be stopped, many said the medical team, including nurses, or the hospital’s ethics committee, should do so, indicating their intention to consider the matter carefully.

“In the current times, medical practitioners must not focus only on extending life no matter what, but about what they would do if the baby were theirs,” Funato said.

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