Friday, September 10, 2004

Kill 'em All
from Heather

Brian told me I had to share about my newborn experience, so here it goes.
I was on newborn nursery call last Sunday. My job there was to show up to any deliveries that were scary for the ob/gyns and take care of the infants. While I was there a poor pregnant woman who was carrying triplets walked into triage. She was in labor. This would be normal except instead of the usual 40 weeks she was only 22 weeks along. At UK we do not attempt to save below 24 weeks and the infant also has to be at least one pound or so (500 grams). Triplets are not going to be that big. I did what any frightened intern would do and discussed these fetuses (it is easier for me to call them that) with my attending. He then told me to wrap them up, keep them warm so they would use up all of their energy reserves and die faster. He then said if they appeared to be in any kind of respiratory distress to get the nurses to place an IV and load them with morphine until they are gone.
Yes, people, I was told to kill babies. I know that the outcome for these little ones are not great. They have a 50% mortality and a 100% chance of significant morbidity at 24 weeks, which they are no where near. I am having big issues with this because it was the first time I got to play God. If this mother were to drive one hour to the west (Louisville) or one and a half hours to the north (Cincinnati) she would have had children in the NICU. Why am I the one who gets to hold these babies until they die? Actually, it would be the mom, not me, but I am the one who tells her.
As a postscript, as of yesterday the mother had not delivered. Her infants are now twenty-three weeks along, and are therefore "viable". I have to look and see where she is. I hope all will be well with this mother.


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