Writing in The New York Times, Jane Brody told a very compassionate story of an 11-year-old girl who was born after just 25 weeks gestation, weighing only 13.5 ounces, but who is now, amazingly, an accomplished writer and illustrator. Brody did not cite the costs of the child's neonatal intensive care, other than to say that the infant spent the first five months of her life in a Falls Church, Va., hospital. (It is difficult to find data on such costs; one hospital in Rhode Island estimated the daily expense at around $2,000, which means that a five-month stay would cost upwards of $300,000.) The Times article concludes with a comment by Dr. Michele Walsh, a neonatologist in Cleveland, who says that although it is expensive to maintain "million-dollar babies," it becomes very cost-effective over time: "There is a return on investment when they get out into the work force and pay taxes."I must tell you as the mother of an extremely premature baby, with low birth weight, who had zero percent chance of survival 18 years ago-there is NO DEBATE in my mind.
Being an economist, I was struck by this explicit link between the cost and benefits. Even though the United States is on the verge of implementing a health care reform that explicitly calls for "bending the cost curve," only rarely does the issue of "cost effectiveness"arise when considering whether, for example, to take measures to save the life of a child. And, when the issue does arise, it is usually generates howls of
outrage, such as occurred in 2006, when a U.K. research group recommended that
doctors not routinely resuscitate extremely premature babies (those born before
22 weeks of gestation). The recommendation was based on data showing that such babies rarely survived --- only 1 percent of those born between 22 and 23 weeks left the hospital.
Read the story of my daughter, born 22.5 weeks, weighing 1 pound 3 ounces posted HERE: