As a NICU nurse out of school just at a year, this thread has been incredibly interesting. I have been in the NICU long enough to have dealt with my own opinions on these things, but not long enough to have seen near as much as some.
My hardest times in the NICU have been with some of these tiny Micro preemies. Just after getting off of orientation I was assigned a baby who had been in our unit and very very sick for several months. I think he was 24 weeks at birth. Just about everything in his tiny little body had shut down from overwhelming infection yet he still hung on and his parents refused to let him go. So we did everything we could--after all the parents wanted it. I was assigned this patient because everybody else in the unit was so tired of caring for this infant. Everybody was just worn out.
Let me explain.... This baby was extremely edematous. You would touch any part of his little body and leave terrible pits. While changing his diaper his body would not bend at the waist because there was so much extra fluid, and with the slightest touch for any type of care (it seemed like as soon as we gowned to enter his room) he would drop his sats-if you were lucky only into the 60's but more regularly into the 30's and 40's. The code materials sat near his bed for weeks on end being put into use several times. His parents would only come to visit him when he was being "good" which meant that on the previous night he had not gained any more weight. The staff was so tired of the torture we were doing to this innocent baby. Everybody wanted to see him become an angel. We had put him through just too much pain. Finally after weeks and weeks of this our friend did become an angel, and there was nothing we or his parents could do to keep him with us. He decided enough was enough. The reason that I tell this story is I guess for several reasons-it shows how much control parents truly do have over the care of their children (at least in my hospital), and it shows that even nurses whose lives have been surrounded for years by the NICU can at times have a really difficult time dealing with the decisions that others make on behalf of our patients.
Thanks for listening~