When the baby breaks: exposing the nerves of neonatal bioethics.




Smith-Windsor, Jaimie

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Neonatal intensive care is an ambiguous and anxious medicine with troubling un/intended consequences. The causes and increasing prevalence of premature birth, available histories and the establishment hospital-based neonatology are presented, with a particular focus on American and Canadian contexts. The thesis traces neonatal medicine’s unlikely swerve through early-American freakshow culture, considers the influence of the eugenics movement, and spans decades of haphazard clinical experimentation with premature babies. Of particular interest is the complex nexus between neonatology and disability and what new technologies reveal about deep-rooted human desires and fears about life, death and disability. Incorporating statistical data, policy analysis and clinical trends with personal, parent and practitioner narratives leads to provocative ethical questions about neonatology’s growing powers. This thesis draws on critical disability theory and contemporary critical theories concerning technology, and builds towards a conception of disability that is separate from the medical paradigm, somewhat unorthodox, and certainly post conventional.



critical disability theory, contemporary political theory, disability, ethics, bioethics, neonatology, neonatal bioethics, premature birth, critical theory