Exploring Ethics - What Ever Happened to Baby Doe? The Transformation of Undertreatment to Over-treatment

Norman Fost, MD, MPH

On Tuesday, January 23, join Norman Fost, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, medical history and bioethics with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as he presents: Exploring Ethics - What Ever Happened to Baby Doe? The Transformation of Undertreatment to Over-treatment. 

The Baby Doe controversy began with a celebrated case involving "The Hopkins Mongol baby," an infant with Down Syndrome and duodenal atresia who was allowed to die of dehydration over a 15 day period. The ensuing "Baby Doe Regulations" resolved the problem of inappropriate under-treatment of infants with excellent prospects for long meaningful lives, but at the cost of overtreatment of infants with little or no prospect for meaningful life. Both errors were driven by concerns other than the interests of the patient, and by misunderstandings about the law. The controversy led to the creation of hospital ethics committees, which transformed the process and outcomes for end-of-life decisions. The story encompasses the modern bioethics movement, and provides an example of how ethical reflection and analysis can lead to dramatic changes in the practice of medicine.


  • Describe the key elements of the Baby Doe Regulations.
  • Identify why Baby Doe Regulations do not apply to patients, doctors hospitals or parents.
  • Recognize that many doctors have been liable for withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Encouraged to attend are nurses, doctors, social workers, clergy, psychologists and any interested health care professional.

See the event flyer.


12-1 p.m. - Introduction and Presentation
1-1:15 p.m. - Meet the Speaker (optional)


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Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
1 Medical Center Blvd.
Comprehensive Cancer Center
10th Floor, Conference Room 10C
Winston-Salem, NC 27157
Precision Health