Brenda van Osch

The Unfinished Child

In search of the limits to early life

What to do with a baby which can fit on a sheet of A4 paper?

When Eva, first-born child of Dutch journalist Brenda van Osch, came into the world ten weeks early, she weighed 680 grams, less than a bag of sugar. At birth she was ‘red and slightly translucent, like a newborn rabbit,’ as Van Osch writes, ‘both unfinished and perfect.’ For months Eva struggled for her life in hospital. Once she eventually came home it gradually became clear that her development was severely delayed. She went to live in a home for children with severe disabilities when she was six.

Ten years later Van Osch decided to go back to an intensive care unit for premature babies to investigate the ethical dilemmas of both doctors and parents that she barely had had time to contemplate when Eva was born. How far do we want to go in saving children born far too soon? Should we always apply every medical option available? In *The Unfinished Child *she draws on her own experience, on a great many conversations with neonatologists and nurses and on interviews with other parents.

*The Unfinished Child *is an open-hearted, sincere and critical book, both investigative journalism and moving memoir. In a unique way it contributes to the international debate on when a premature baby

is viable and the many ethical dilemmas involved. The question of whether enabling Eva to live was the right decision is central to The Unfinished Child. Van Osch admits that no answer can be totally unambiguous. Had she known the outcome of her daughter’s life, would she and her husband have wanted all the medical aid available?

She is not sure. But now that Eva is part of her world, she loves her. ‘She’s there. She’s alive,’ is all she can conclude. Simple words that stand for a maelstrom of hope and fear, dilemmas and decisions, disappointments, blessings and confusion.

Brenda van Osch confronts us with the dilemma as well as the despair of parents faced with premature babies with complications: how far should you go in treating the very premature?


The book’s accessible writing makes it valuable for both the medical profession and the general public.

Medisch Contact

Parents and doctors face difficult choices when a child comes into the world far too soon. Van Osch writes about them movingly.

De Volkskrant

Brenda van Osch

Brenda van Osch (b. 1972) is a journalist. After studying Political Science at the University of Amsterdam she worked ten years as an editor at the economic section of the weekly Elsevier. Since 2007 she writes freelance for several newspapers and magazines. In NRC Handelsblad she writes the weekly…

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Het onvoltooide kind. Op zoek naar de grenzen van pril leven (2015). Non-fiction, 256 pages.
Words: 55,000
Copies sold: 3,000



Keizersgracht 117
1015 CJ Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 261 19 38

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