British Ob/Gyns Call Premature Newborns
“Bed Blockers” in Overcrowded ICUs

by Hilary White

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) of the UK says premature newborns are taking up space in intensive care units in Britain’s overburdened hospitals.

The BBC reports that the College has issued a document in which fragile newborns are called “bed blockers,” a term that is gaining currency in medical circles referring to a person who should not be taking up bed space for more important patients.

In its report to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the College says, “Some weight should be given to economic considerations as there is a real issue in neo-natal units of ‘bed blocking;’ whereby women have to be transferred in labour to other units, compromising both their and their babies' care.”

In the July 2005 report, it added, “One of the problems of the "success" of neo-natal intensive care is that the practitioners are always pushing the boundaries. "There has been a constant need to expand numbers of cots to cover the increasing tendency to try and rescue babies at lower and lower gestations."

Given the crisis in Britain’s massive, tax-funded National Health Service (NHS), the government is under pressure to find ways to cut costs and waiting times. This has created a boom in business for bioethicists who are asked to draw up guidelines for government spending. The situation has left disabled patients, many of whom are dependent upon assisted feeding and hydration, in fear.

Several recent legal cases have highlighted the danger of allowing secular bioethics to run a completely nationalized health care system. Last year, Leslie Burke, a man who suffers from a degenerative brain disease, sued and lost a case to the NHS in which he demanded the right not to be dehydrated to death when he loses the ability to swallow or speak.

The case was looked upon as a test of the idea that a patient should be able to decide his fate. Burke's barrister, Richard Gordon, QC, said, “Patients like Mr. Burke may die when they don't want to die. They may die because of the withdrawal of artificial nourishment and hydration by clinicians who think it is in their best interests.”

Under the current system, a physician's decision to end a patient's life supersedes even the wishes of family members such as spouses, children, or even parents.

Source:, LONDON, March 27, 2006.

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