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News Flash: Babies recoil from jerks

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Aug 25, 2005

Last week the New York Times published a good article, A Second Womb, by Paul Raeburn, on the treatment of premature babies. It's must reading for everyone expecting a child, and enlightening for everyone else. Heidelise Als is a woman with a mission to help neonatal professionals see the world through the eyes of a vulnerable infant. I really admire her strength and insight.

In the womb, babies are vibrant, active and in constant physical and hormonal contact with their mothers. In the N.I.C.U., they're limp little bundles, lying flopped on their backs, their arms extended and eyes closed. Their noses, hands, chests or feet are often pinned with gauze and adhesive tape. And they are repeatedly stuck with needles, intravenous tubes and catheters. 'They are sustaining pain at a level that is completely unexpected,' Als says. 'It's overwhelming to the brain.'

Yesterday we learned that it's all very different if what you want to do is kill the child:

But Dr. Rosen said that response in the fetus did not mean it felt pain, but was instead more likely to be a reflex, like the leg jerk that occurs in adults when doctors tap them on the knee with a rubber hammer.

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