Active Euthanasia for Perinatal Osteogenesis Imperfecta; An Ethical Dilemma in a Tertiary Facility in Southwestern Nigeria: A Case Report

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Michael Abel Alao
Oluseye James Sobande
Ayodeji Matthew Borokinni
Abimbola Ellen Akindolire
Adejumoke Idowu Ayede
Olukemi Oluwatoyin Tongo


Osteogenesis imperfecta, euthanasia, ethical dilemma, end of life, case report


Managing a newborn with lethal congenital anomalies is challenging but handling a parent’s request for doctors under oath to terminate the baby’s life is another major ethical dilemma requiring cautious evaluation. We present a term male neonate who presented on the 7th day of life, with a dark-blue sclera, multiple limb deformities, long bone fractures, beaded ribs, a flattened forehead, a narrow chest, and respiratory distress. A Diagnosis of Type II Osteogenesis imperfecta was made and he was managed by a multidisciplinary team including neonatologists, geneticists/endocrinologists, orthopaedic surgeons, nurses, and medical social workers. Supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids and antibiotics, analgesia, and bisphosphonates were offered as supportive care. The main concern was the challenges of managing a newborn with lethal OI and balancing the demand for euthanasia by the parents to end the baby’s misery. In providing care, the rights of the child to life, the morals of the physician, the best interests of the baby, and the family's role in decision-making in a setting of out-of-pocket expenditures must be weighed. Following extensive multidisciplinary team meetings, it was ultimately decided to allow nature to take her course. Baby subsequently had progressive respiratory distress from pulmonary hypoplasia and died of respiratory failure on the twelfth day of life. In Conclusion, Osteogenesis imperfecta of the perinatal type is usually a lethal disease, with death often occurring within the perinatal period. The physician must, therefore, balance the parental rights, the oath of office, and the existing legal framework to avoid charges of murder or manslaughter.

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