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Support rises in Senate for new 'Baby Jane Doe' bill

A bill to require medical treatment for newborns who are diagnosed as severely handicapped appears to be gaining support in the US Senate. The measure would require hospitals to notify state officials of any suspected withholding of medical treatment from such infants. State agencies would be authorized to go to court to force medical treatment. Exceptions would be made if the doctor believed that treatment would be futile in keeping the child alive.

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The bill's sponsors include Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R) of Utah, Christopher J. Dodd (D) of Connecticut, Jeremiah Denton (R) of Alabama, Alan Cranston (D) of California, Don Nickles (R) of Oklahoma, and Nancy Kassebaum (R) of Kansas. The senators say they intend to bring the bill forward soon after Congress reconvenes July 23.

The measure was prompted by a 1982 ''Baby Jane Doe'' case in which parents asked that treatment be withheld because doctors believed the child to be severely handicapped.

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