Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 449–459 | Cite as

Deficiencies and Missed Opportunities to Formulate Clinical Guidelines in Australia for Withholding or Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment in Severely Disabled and Impaired Infants

  • Neera BhatiaEmail author
  • James Tibballs
Original Research


This paper examines the few, but important legal and coronial cases concerning withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment from severely disabled or critically impaired infants in Australia. Although sparse in number, the judgements should influence common clinical practices based on assessment of “best interests” but these have not yet been adopted. In particular, although courts have discounted assessment of “quality of life” as a legitimate component of determination of “best interests,” this remains a prominent component of clinical guidelines. In addition, this paper highlights the lack of uniform clinical guidelines available to medical professionals and parents in Australia when making end-of-life decisions for severely ill infants. Thus, it is argued here that there is a need for an overarching prescriptive uniform framework or set of guidelines in end-of-life decision-making for impaired infants. This would encourage greater transparency, consistency, and some degree of objectivity in an area that often appears subjective.


End-of-life care Withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment End-of-life treatment for infants “Best interests” Clinical guidelines Medical ethics 


Competing Interests and Funding

There are no competing interests or funding support for this paper.


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Paediatric Intensive Care UnitRoyal Children’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia

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