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British Socialized HC Official: Some Premature Babies Should be Left to Die

"For me the big issue is that we're spending an awful lot of money..."

Note from The Blaze Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker: I'm updating this post with a clarification/apology from the Daily Mail. Here is their statement:

Statements contained in an article published on 7 March, headed “Babies who are born at 23 weeks should be left to die, says NHS chief”, were wrongly attributed to Dr Daphne Austin, who is a medical consultant specialist employed by the NHS.

They were made in a programme in which Dr Austin participated and were published by us in good faith.  In particular, Dr Austin did not state that babies should be “left to die” and did not express the opinion that the financial aspects of neonatal care were the issue.  We apologise to Dr Austin for the errors.

Editor's note continued: Our original post, which I'm leaving intact below, did not use the phrase "left to die" as a quote.  It was used in the headline as a good-faith summary phrase of Dr. Austin's position.  Evaluating the complete context of her statements is somewhat difficult at this point.  The longer BBC excerpt of the program is geographically limited to prevent viewing in the United States.  You can see that here.  There is a shorter excerpt that is available here.  That BBC link is still current and uses this headline: "Very premature babies 'should not be revived.'

Premature babies born at 23 weeks should not be resuscitated because their chances of surviving are so slim, according to an NHS official.

Dr Daphne Austin told BBC Radio 5 live: "There is sufficient evidence to suggest that we're [currently] doing more harm than good.

"Are we confident that we are providing the care that they need right through?" Dr Austin asked presenter Victoria Derbyshire, "we need to have a better debate about this."

Editor's note continued: Here is the rest of our original post.

A prominent British health care official associated with the country's socialized medicine agency NHS is set to make a disturbing admission in an upcoming documentary: she thinks premature babies born at 23 weeks gestation should be left to die. Why? Cost concerns.

"If it was my child, from all the evidence and information that I know, I would not resuscitate," Dr. Daphne Austin says in the BBC program 23 Week Babies: The Price of Life, reports London's Daily Mail.

She continues: "We are doing more harm than good by resuscitating 23-weekers. I can’t think of very many interventions that have such poor outcomes. For me the big issue is that we’re spending an awful lot of money on treatments that have very marginal benefit. I would prefer to free up that money to spend on providing support to people who have much more lifelong chronic conditions." [Emphasis added]

In even more stunning comments, Austin says that while parents should get a say, in reality they don't speak for the baby: "There’s a lot of emphasis on the parents’ views and what they want. But somewhere in there, there needs to be an advocate for the baby." The assumption seems to be the baby would rather die.

The Mail says NHS spends about 10 million BPS, or over $16 million US, on treating babies born around 23 weeks, many of which either die or end up with birth defects.*

"Guidelines state that doctors should not try to resuscitate babies born under 22 weeks," the paper says, "as they are too underdeveloped, but those born between 22 and 25 weeks should routinely be given intensive care."

According to Austin, the decision not to resuscitate should be made "in the same way as we’ve made hard decisions about things like cancer drugs, saying the outcomes just aren’t good enough and therefore we won’t use them."

Austin isn't the first British woman to promote killing children as the compassionate choice. As we reported in October, UK advice columnist Virginia Ironside said she would even go as far as to smother a suffering child:

At this point it's appropriate to point out that current U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Director Donald Berwick has admitted he "loves" NHS. But it's also appropriate to point out reports have now surfaced that Berwick -- who only has his job after the president gave it to him via a recess appointment -- may not be keeping his position for much longer.

According to a report from Politico, Senate Democrats have given up on securing an official nomination:

Senate Democrats have given up on confirming Don Berwick as CMS administrator in the wake of a letter from 42 Republican senators opposing the nomination, sources tell POLITICO. [...]

At a meeting with health care lobbyists Friday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee staffers indicated that the nomination is dead, that there will be no confirmation hearing, and that they'll soon be discussing "next steps" for CMS, sources said. [...]

If he is not confirmed by the Senate, Berwick will have to leave by the end of 2011.

"The question will be whether Obama accepts defeat this time and picks someone less controversial to run Medicare and Medicaid, or whether he sticks a thumb in the Senate’s eye and gives Berwick another recess appointment," Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air.

He concludes: "Given the infighting between the White House and Senate Democrats on the budget, Obama will probably decide that discretion is the better part of valor in this case and look for Plan B."

The documentary featuring Austin airs on Britain's BBC2 on Wednesday night.

*Author's note: My younger brother was born after about 24 weeks gestation. He is healthy and has no birth defects or residual issues. He survived using the technology available 16 years ago. It is possible to survive being born at such a premature stage and grow up to be completely healthy.

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)

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