Sweden's Hospitals Differ on Treatment of Premature Babies

Both medical professionals and politicians are demanding shared guidelines for the treatment of premature babies. Today, the practice is not uniform.

At two of Sweden’s seven university hospitals, in Uppsala and Umeå, staff attempts to save all children born as early as week 22.  At the other five, the limit is week 23 or 24.

The reason why some hospitals sets the limit later is that only about 10 % of children who are born at week 22 will survive, and then generally with serious disabilities.

It is very unusual that children are born in week 22. In Sweden there have been 50 children in three years born that early. Despite this, several doctors and politicians who Swedish Radio News has been in contact with, say that they would like national guidelines on this issue.

“I think we ought to come to an agreement in this question – not in the least so that all children in Sweden have the same chances regardless of where in the country they are born,” said Katarina Strand Brodd, paediatrician and researcher at Uppsala University Hospital.

According to Ylva Johansson, Social Democratic mp and vice chairperson of the Parliament’s Committee on Health and Welfare, the differences in procedure are unacceptable.

“Regarding the ethical considerations it is really inexcusable that such a discrepancy exists between our university hospitals,” she said to Swedish Radio News.

But neither the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics nor the National Board on Health and Welfare want to give any advice or guidelines regarding this – they say that it is up to the medical professionals to come to an agreement amongst themselves.

And at the Swedish Neonatal Society, which is part of the Swedish Paediatric Society, the chairman, Stellan Håkansson, says that national guidelines are not necessary as the situation occurs so seldom.

“This is a grey area which we will have to live with. I think we are pretty much in agreement anyway in Sweden, with regards to neonatal care – although it may differ slightly regarding treatment of children born in week 22, he said to Swedish Radio News.

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