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Anticipating the Baby Fae case, and others: an admirable, farsighted caution about heroic efforts to save the lives of premature and impaired babies. Reporter Lyon, who developed the book from a Chicago Tribune series, is amazingly informed, clear-eyed, and considerate of all involved: parents, infants, physicians, nurses, and lawmakers. (Some of his insight comes from his retarded brother, whose story is among the most moving here.) There are no tougher issues than these: how far to go, and when to stop, in prolonging the lives of babies with serious, quality and quantity of life problems. Recent medical advances in the care of newborns mean that there is a new generation of children who would not have survived before (they were, in effect, miscarriages), and there are no rules for treatment. Some of the youngsters seem to emerge ""normal"" from the early, critical phase--but the oldest are only about five, and problems may still surface. In many other cases, infants endure months of excruciatingly painful illness (painful for them and their parents) before dying, or living on in an existence that really has no name: not just with astounding physical impairment and mental retardation, but sometimes without sufficient brain function to have a personality or even elemental awareness. Through heartbreaking case stories, Lyon paints an accurate picture of the medical state of the art, and what it means not only for the families but for caretakers. His aim throughout it to inform, rather than proselytize--but on one point he is adamant, almost livid: those who argue the aggressive ""right-to-live"" line (the Reagan administration, most pointedly) will have to do an about-face on social issues, because government support for the severely handicapped is pitiful. Lyon is correct: in all the moral, legal, and medical morass surrounding the care of such infants, one fact is sure: they are going to be impaired survivors whose families will need substantial long-term assistance. Exemplary.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1984
ISBN: 0393303098
Publisher: Norton