In Monday's editions, an item based on a wire service report about the Health and Human Services Department's "Baby Doe" regulations was inaccurate on one point. In the exceptions in which hospitals are authorized to withhold treatment of severely handicapped newborns, they still must provide the infants with adequate food, water and medication.

The Reagan administration yesterday ordered doctors and hospitals to provide medically necessary treatment for severely handicapped newborns except in cases where death appears inevitable.

The Health and Human Services Department released its final regulation covering the so-called "Baby Doe" cases, in which infants with severe or multiple handicaps might be denied necessary medical treatment and allowed to die.

The regulations, which drew more than 116,000 comments, specify three cases in which doctors are justified in withholding medical treatment, including food and water:

* When the infant is chronically and irreversibly comatose.

* When treatment merely prolongs an inevitable death.

* When treatment is so extreme and so likely to be futile that it becomes inhumane to administer it.

An appendix to the rule, which takes effect in 30 days, also advises hospitals and state governments that decisions on treatment are not to be based on assumptions regarding the "quality of life" that a handicapped infant is likely to enjoy should he survive.

The Baby Doe rules are named after a highly publicized 1982 case in Bloomington, Ind., in which treatment was withheld from a newborn infant suffering severe handicaps.

The Reagan administration proposed a rule to require such treatment, but it was struck down by the courts. Congress stepped in last year and passed legislation requiring the rules. The new regulations are based on that law.

The requirement was added to a child-abuse law, and the regulation provides that states must implement the regulation by Oct. 9 to qualify for child-abuse grants.

The state programs must include procedures for coordination with hospitals, procedures for effective investigations and authority to obtain court-ordered treatment where treatment is being wrongfully withheld.

HHS Secretary Margaret M. Heckler said the new regulation "is not intended to require child-protection workers to practice medicine, to second-guess medical judgments or to interfere with parental responsibilities.

"Rather, the rule is to establish sensible procedures designed to ascertain whether any decision to withhold treatment was based on reasonable medical judgment," she said.