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Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka discontinued efforts to prolong the lives of eight babies between 1999 and 2005 with the consent of the parents when doctors determined the newborns would die within one to two hours.

According to a hospital official, the purpose was to allow the parents to hold their babies so they could die a peaceful death.

The hospital is run by a Presbyterian mission.

“We put priority on care rather than treatment and think attaching maximum importance to the time spent with their parents is medical care for their last moments,” said Masahisa Funato, the head of pediatrics at the hospital.

The eight babies were treated by the hospital’s intensive care unit, and in each case more than one doctor concluded they would not recover and had a maximum of two hours to live.

In some of the cases, it was the doctors who proposed to the parents that the life-support system be turned off. In other cases, parents asked the hospital to terminate treatment, according to the hospital.

It is a contentious issue, with some professionals saying that terminating care is a difficult proposition because it is impossible to know the will of the baby.

However, a growing number of doctors are reconsidering whether extending care unnecessarily for such young patients could be deemed excessive.

The hospital, founded in 1955, is known for pioneering in Japan, along with another hospital, a hospice for terminally ill cancer patients.

In 1998, the 607-bed hospital drew up a guideline for terminal care for babies with fatal deformities, terminal brain hemorrhages and other serious health problems.

The hospital checked cases subject to the guidelines between 1999 and 2005 and found that about 70 newborns died. Of them, care was discontinued for eight.

On the eight cases, the hospital terminated treatment after having considerable discussions between the medical teams for the patients, their parents and public health nurses, the hospital said.

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