Passive euthanasia of defective newborn infants: Legal considerations

John A. Robertson, Norman Fost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The recent increase in reporting of passive euthanasia of defective newborn infants has not been accompanied by extensive analysis of the legality of the practice or the appropriateness of current law. There appears to be criminal liability on several grounds for parents, physicians, nurses, and administrators. Such liability may include charges of homicide by omission, child neglect, and failure to report child neglect. Increasing public exposure of the practice increases the probability that such prosecutions may be brought. Individuals involved in such decisions should be aware of their possible legal liability. If existing legal policy is inappropriate, it should be changed through open discussion and not subverted through private action. Two alternative policies are described: establishment of criteria for the class of infants who can be allowed to die or a better process of decision making. We conclude that a commitment to process would be preferable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-889
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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