By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 27, 2005
The Times reports on Britain's latest health-care scandal: survivors.
A Government agency is launching an inquiry into doctors' reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions. The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.
Note the word "botched." This part of the story is about things going wrong. Babies that we don't want to live, do. How?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which regulates methods of abortion, has also mounted its own investigation. Its guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure.
Ah yes, an injection of potassium chloride
die arbeitsunfähig Kinder zu vernichten to zap the heart. A delicate procedure. Take a look at the target area here. Odd that few docs are "willing or able" to do the deed. After all, we're long past the dark ages of back-alley butchers, right?
For the abortion of younger foetuses, labour is induced by drugs in the expectation that the infant will not survive the birth process. Guidelines say that doctors should ensure that the drugs they use prevent such babies being alive at birth.
"... prevent such babies being alive at birth." A delicate procedure, it's clear, requires even more delicate phraseology.
In practice, according to Stuart Campbell, former professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's hospital, London, a number do survive.
There are always a few awkward patients, alas -- and after the bother and expense of a shot of potassium chloride, too! Catch this next jewel of professional harrumphery:
"They can be born breathing and crying at 19 weeks' gestation," [Campbell] said. "I am not anti-abortion, but as far as I am concerned this is sub-standard medicine."
Quite. Have you, incidentally, checked the belts, fluids and brakes on your moral philosophy lately?
The number of terminations carried out in the 18th week of pregnancy or later has risen from 5,166 in 1994 to 7,432 last year. Prenatal diagnosis for conditions such as Down's syndrome is increasing and foetuses with the condition are routinely aborted, even though many might be capable of leading fulfilling lives. In the past decade, doctors' skill in saving the lives of premature babies has improved radically: at least 70%-80% of babies in their 23rd or 24th week of gestation now survive long-term.
Got that? Skill at saving babies' lives is improving, skill at ending them is in short supply. The result: half a hundred stubborn little bastards -- breathing and crying -- who won't do the sporting thing and die. No wonder the health service is upset.
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