Date of Award

Fall 1988

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Victor Benassi


Treatment decisions made on behalf of newborns with mental retardation and an accompanying life-threatening medical disorder were studied. A group of 360 college students answered a set of questionnaires and responded to a vignette which asked for treatment decisions. The options ranged from full treatment including surgery to no treatment at all. The relationship of a number of variables to the treatment choices was assessed. The variables included level of moral reasoning, level of knowledge about and attitudes toward individuals with retardation, prior experience with individuals with retardation, religious affiliation, level of religious belief, prediction of quality of life for the infant, and ethical justification. The majority of participants selected full treatment. Level of retardation, quality of life projection, prior experience, and ethical position were all significantly related to treatment choice. Additionally, changes in treatment choice after additional information was provided were assessed. Quality of life projection and ethical position were also significantly related to changes of treatment. Implications for public policy concerning treatment of newborns, public education concerning people with mental retardation, and counseling provided to parents faced with treatment decisions were discussed.