AIM: Valid and reliable data are needed to gain insight into the decisions of paediatricians concerning the end of life of newborns and infants. Such data could throw light on the poorly documented aspects of medical practice regarding these end-of-life decisions (ELDs). In this article a classification of ELDs is developed. METHODS: The classification is developed from knowledge generated from large-scale epidemiological studies on ELDs. RESULTS: This classification sets out from considerations of the various possible medical end-of-life procedures for newborns and infants and from important ethical aspects of the decision-making process. From both ethical and legal viewpoints the life-shortening intention of the physician is a significant factor for the qualification of ELDs. Furthermore, the consultation of the parents is an important factor in absence of the possibility of the patient's self-determination. CONCLUSION: This classification has been devised with the aim of making reliable and valid descriptions of both the incidence and nature of ELDs in this specific population of newborns and infants.