Article Text

Download PDFPDF

The attitudes of neonatologists towards extremely preterm infants: a Q methodological study
  1. Katie Gallagher1,
  2. Narendra Aladangady2,3,
  3. Neil Marlow4
  1. 1Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2Neonatal Unit, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3Centre for Paediatrics, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  4. 4UCL Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women's Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Neil Marlow, UCL Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women's Health, University College London, 74 Huntley Street, London WC1E 6AU, UK; n.marlow{at}


Objectives The attitudes and biases of doctors may affect decision making within Neonatal Intensive Care. We studied the attitudes of neonatologists in order to understand how they prioritise different factors contributing to decision making for extremely preterm babies.

Design Twenty-five neonatologists (11 consultants and 14 senior trainees) participated in a Q methodological study about decision making that involved the ranking of 53 statements from agree to disagree in a unimodal shaped grid. Results were explored by person factor analysis using principle component analysis.

Results The model of best fit comprised 23 participants contributing a three-factor model, which represented three different attitudes towards decision making and accounted for 59% of the variance. Fourteen statements were ranked in statistically significant similar positions by 23 participants; consensus statements included placing the baby and family at the centre of care, limitation of intervention based upon perceived risk and non-mandatory intervention at birth. Factor 1 participants (n=12) believed that treatment should not be limited based on gestational age and technology should be used to improve treatment. Five factor 2 participants identified strongly with a limit of 24 weeks for treatment, one of whom being polar opposite, believing in treatment at all costs at all gestations. The remaining six factor 3 participants identified strongly with statements that treatment should be withheld on quality of life grounds.

Conclusions This study has identified differences in attitudes towards decision making between individual neonatologists and trainees that may impact how decisions are communicated to families.

  • Neonatology
  • Intensive Care
  • Ethics

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Fantoms
    Martin Ward Platt