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The Treatment of Handicapped Newborns: Is There a Role for Law?, 1 Issues L. & Med. 279 (1986)


We have just recently entered a new phase in the controversy about the medical treatment of seriously impaired newborns. In October 1985 a new federal law went into effect which mandates the provision of treatment to all infants, no matter how seriously ill or impaired, unless they were inevitably and imminently dying or were irreversibly comatose. In one sense, this legal mandate is nothing new. The law in every state has been clear for many years that purposefully withholding medical treatment from newborns was criminal child abuse and probably even homicide. But though this was the "law on the books," it was widely ignored in practice-a fact that was an open secret among members of the medical profession.

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