End of life: a therapy for newborn babies

Publié le : 12 April 2013
Interviewed by Zenit, Dr Elvira Parravicini, an assistant in the paediatric clinic of Columbia University, New York, is the "founder of a hospital unit specialising in providing comfort and care for babies who have no chance of surviving." She explains that supportive care is provided for the newborn babies in their terminal phase. Today, the prenatal diagnosis enabling us to determine the chances of survival of a newborn baby is based "on the identification of problems present in the foetus to prevent it from being born," she deplores. But "this goes against the reason for which medicine exists, which is: to help those who request help.
"Comfort care", as Dr Parravicini calls the therapy given to these children since 2006, "consists of providing them with comfort, making their end of life gentler and full of love. We guarantee them comfortable conditions, leaving them in the arms of their parents, so that they can feel loved and stay warm. We feed them and keep them hydrated, so that they do not suffer from hunger or thirst. And then we treat their pain." The neonatology doctor adds: "we can do many things to help these children," contrary to what people may say, she emphasises. "One just has to be attentive to their very personal needs.
The children who receive this care are those afflicted by what are called "life-limiting" diseases, meaning those "cases where medicine is unable to cure them or prolong their life." It also concerns "children treated over the long term, in intensive therapy, who have undergone operations and are at the end of life." So, while medicine cannot cure them, the neonatology doctor points out that it is still possible to "do a lot to make their short life pleasant and full of love." And this therapy is not futile medical care, she points out: "we support a life that is given and which we follow up to the end.

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