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Recent studies in neonatal medicine, clinical nursing, and cognitive psychology have indicated the need to augment current decision-making practice in neonatal intensive care units with computerized, intelligent decision support systems. Rapid progress in artificial intelligence and knowledge management facilitates the design of collaborative ethical decision-support tools that allow clinicians to provide better support for parents facing inherently difficult choices, such as when to withdraw aggressive treatment. The appropriateness of using computers to support ethical decision-making is critically analyzed through research and literature review. In ethical dilemmas, multiple diverse participants need to communicate and function as a team to select the best treatment plan. In order to do this, physicians require reliable estimations of prognosis, while parents need a highly useable tool to help them assimilate complex medical issues and address their own value system. Our goal is to improve and structuralize the ethical decision-making that has become an inevitable part of modern neonatal care units. The paper contributes to clinical decision support by outlining the needs and basis for ethical decision support and justifying the proposed development efforts.
Date of Conference: 1-5 Sept. 2004