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International and cross-cultural dimensions of treatment decisions for neonates

John D Lantos
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 2015, 20 (5): 368-72
26072059
Neonatal mortality rates vary widely among countries. According to data from the World Health Organization, neonatal mortality in low- and low-middle-income countries is ∼30 per 1000 babies. In upper middle-income countries, that number was just 10 per 1000. In the highest-income countries, it was <5 per 1000. These data may not be accurate. Many countries do not report the tiniest babies as live births. Thus, their reported infant mortality rates are much lower than their actual infant mortality rates. Another big difference between countries is in the rate at which congenital anomalies are diagnosed prenatally and the rate at which pregnancies are terminated by induced abortion. International comparisons therefore reflect differences in the way countries define live birth, the comprehensiveness of the reporting of live births even by their own definitions, differences in the prevalence of congenital anomalies, the rate at which those congenital anomalies are diagnosed prenatally, and the percentage of pregnancies with congenital anomalies that end in abortion. This article reviews these differences and discusses the implications for the ways in which we think about international differences in decisions about life-sustaining treatment.

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