Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fetus Pain

An interesting article in the NY Times (subscription may be required) on when the fetus feels pain. No way this could cause an uproar. Here's a snippet or two...

"Their report, being published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on a review of several hundred scientific papers, and it says that nerve connections in the brain are unlikely to have developed enough for the fetus to feel pain before 29 weeks."

"There are medical experts on opposing sides of the issue as well, and the only thing they agree on is that it is virtually impossible to tell for sure what a fetus can feel."

"From the available biological evidence, it seems very unlikely that a fetus experiences what we think of as pain before 29 weeks of gestation," Dr. Rosen said in a telephone interview. Giving anesthesia to the fetus could be difficult and would needlessly expose the pregnant woman to additional risks, he said, adding, "Policy decisions should be based on evidence, scientific evidence, not our emotional beliefs."

Like say...when life begins, also?

"Dr. Eleanor A. Drey, one of Dr. Rosen's co-authors, said that as an obstetrician who sometimes performs abortions, she would find it troubling to be compelled to bring up the subject of fetal pain with her patients.

'I would be forced to drag them through potentially a lot of misinformation,' she said. 'Our systematic review has shown it's extremely unlikely that pain exists at a point when abortions are done. I'm going to have to talk about something I know will cause the patient distress, something that by our best assessment of the scientific data is not relevant.'"

The same could probably be said of Intelligent Design theory also, which has yet to be covered in this blog, but most likely will be in the future. Also interesting from this article was that the authors of the paper consisted of "a neuroanatomist, an obstetrician, a pediatrician and a former lawyer who is now a medical student". Seems like a pretty well-balanced and hopefully objective group, and a good example of how the peer-review process and diverse groups are the best route to objective policy and decision making. Taking notes, President Bush? This is not meant to be a Bush-bashing blog, but he does seem to make plenty of decisions made on very personal points of view (or with political implications). Whereas Clinton was known for bringing in experts on both sides of issues and hearing them out, before making many decisions. From what I've read, Bush seems to be the opposite. It's too bad that leaders who do things more like Clinton are often labelled "wishy-washy" or "flip-floppers", while Bush is seen as a "strong leader" because of his willingness to take a stand or make immediate and firm decisions. At least in the scientific world, it's always valuable to see all the evidence first.


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