UC Law Journal


Steven R. Smith


The recently enacted federal Child Abuse Amendments of 1984 seek to scrutinize closely parental decisions to withhold lifesaving treatment from seriously impaired newborns. Although the goal of this legislation is laudable, the mechanism it adopts offers only tenuous protection to newborns. This Article first explores the scope of the problem of withholding treatment. It then examines the interests involved in treatment decision-making, contending that there are limitations on parental child-rearing rights and suggesting standards to define when treatment may be withheld. After a survey of the development of federal and state child abuse and neglect statutes, the Article analyzes the weaknesses in the new federal statute and argues that the scope and clarity of the state and federal regulations must be expanded if they are to have any positive effect. Finally, the Article suggests implementing a system of interdisciplinary teams that can review nontreatment decisions expeditiously and effectively, thereby ensuring that the infant is afforded all of the protections available under the law.

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