Article Text

AN ETHICAL APPROACH TO NEONATAL PAIN
  1. C V Bellieni1,
  2. G Buonocore1
  1. 1University of Siena, Siena, Italy

Abstract

The authors want to promote the awareness that not only physical pain, but also the lack of a comfortable baby-centred environment can be the cause of suffering. This awareness arises from recent data about neonatal suffering and neonatal pain treatment.

A distinction should be made between pain and suffering: the former is due to a physical harm, whereas the latter (which may also be provoked by pain) to a harm to the person’s desires. This difference explains why the struggle against pain cannot be overcome without the recognition of babies’ personhood, ie, being subjects capable of desires and fears: we cannot limit to administering analgesics, but also to promote the integral wellbeing of premature babies. Pain and suffering are still underscored in neonatal age. We argue that this has multiple causes: (1) bad definition of pain and difficulty in recognising it; (2) lack of concern about newborns’ suffering; (3) lack of legal consequences for provoking unnecessary pain; (4) diffidence to newborns’ vitality, which leads to diffidence to their personhood; (5) lack of empathy towards the preverbal patient. An ethical approach towards neonatal pain should consider the right of babies to analgesia and relief to be as mandatory as it is in adults. An ethical treatment of pain should start from recognising newborns’ personhood and their need to be soothed, comforted and respected during painful treatment. Recent studies show that this approach not only respects newborns’ personality, but also increases the analgesic effect of the resources we employ against pain.

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