To determine whether parental characteristics affect estimates of best interests and intervention decisions for preterm infants.
The study consisted of an anonymous questionnaire given to nurses, physicians, and students. The study included scenarios of 3 sets of parents, including a 16-year-old teenager, a couple who were lawyers, and a couple with a history of in vitro fertilization, about to deliver at 22 weeks, 24 weeks, or 27 weeks. Respondents were asked whether active intervention is in the infant's best interests and whether they would comply with family decisions.
A total of 1105 questionnaires were sent out, with 829 respondents in Canada and the United States. At 22 weeks' gestation, 21% of the respondents thought that resuscitation was in the infant's best interest; among respondents who did not agree, 59% would intervene if the parents wished. At 27 weeks' gestation, 95% of respondents thought that resuscitation was in the infant's best interest, yet 34% would accept comfort care. Estimates of best interest, and willingness to comply, varied significantly by parental characteristics. At 22 weeks' gestation, 17% of respondents believed that resuscitation was in the best interest of the teenaged mother's infant compared with 26% of respondents who believed that resuscitation was in the best interest for the infants of the others; this difference persisted at 24 weeks. At 22 and at 24 weeks' gestation, compliance with active care despite believing that it not in the infant's best interest was significantly more frequent for the in vitro fertilization couple and the lawyers than for the teenaged mother. At 27 weeks' gestation, more than 93% of respondents complied for all parents.
Caregivers frequently are ready to intervene actively, or not, despite believing that it is against the infant's best interest. Willingness to do so varies according to parental characteristics.