Wednesday, August 24, 2005

May or May Not Feel Pain? Quite disturbing...

From the Washington Post: Article by Lindsey Tanner

Doctors should not be required to discuss fetal pain with women seeking abortions because fetuses likely can't feel pain until late in pregnancy, according to a review critics say hardly settles the contentious topic. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco reviewed dozens of studies and medical reports and said the data indicate that fetuses likely are incapable of feeling pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy, when they are about 28 weeks old. Based on the evidence, discussions of fetal pain for abortions performed before the end of the second trimester should not be mandatory, according to the study appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assoc.
The review, researchers say, is an attempt to present a comprehensive, objective report on evidence to inform the debate over fetal pain laws aimed at making women think twice before getting abortions.
Critics angrily disputed the findings and claimed the report is biased.
"They have literally stuck their hands into a hornet's nest," said Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a fetal pain researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who believes fetuses as young as 20 weeks old feel pain. "This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be. This is not the last word definitely not."
Proposed federal legislation would require doctors to provide fetal pain information to women seeking abortions when fetuses are at least 20 weeks old, and to offer women fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of states have enacted similar measures.
The review says medical evidence shows that brain structures involved in feeling pain begin forming earlier but likely do not function until around the seventh month, when fetuses are about 28 weeks old.
Some scientists say younger fetuses show pain by moving away from a stimulus, but that likely is a reflex action and not an indication that they are actually feeling pain, said UCSF obstetric anesthesiologist Dr. Mark Rosen, the study's senior author.
Read the rest of the article at:

What an outrage.


jacquie said...

This issue is hard for me to get my mind around. The commitment, in this country, to abortion is absolutely mind boggling to me. In my heart, I am deeply grieved.
So, if the "fetus" (baby/child/human) can't feel the pain or process the pain AS pain, then it's OK to kill "it" (him/her)?

JaredB said...

Not that I agree with abortion in any way, but in order to facilitate any potentially useful dialog between the two camps, it would probably be best to clarify that those people who do think abortion is OK do not believe that they are "killing" a person. Not saying that I agree, but just pointing out that it's not like they (in their minds) are in favor "killing".

This is interestingly related to the post topic (whether or not they can feel pain) as well. The problem is that it's difficult to prove whether they actually feel pain (as the article says), but that points to an even more difficult (probably impossible) thing to scientifically prove, which is the issue of when it becomes "alive". I suspect that there will never be a scientific answer to this question. Of course, I think it is wise to err on the side of caution, and therefore not perform abortions, since you don't know either way.

jacquie said...

The reason there will never be a scientific answer to this question is because it is a moral problem. As you must have observed by now, we can make science agree with just about anything we want it to, and then change it later to match our ever evolving belief systems. Redifining words like "killing" and "alive" will never address the issue. There is still right and wrong, but when people are dead set on doing what they find convenient and comfortable, despite the right and wrong of it, there is no amount of "useful dialog" that will change that. People hear what they want to hear, and many times they adapt their belief system to support their chosen way of life. Abortion is a deep spiritual matter and no amount of reasoning has gotten us anywhere yet. One problem at this point in history is that everything is up for intellectual debate, uh "useful dialog". Instead of "erring on the side of caution" how about actually standing for something that you truly believe? If I believe that taking an alive baby and making him/her dead is called "killing", does that make me a wacko-extremest? Well, if it does, i really don't care.

Nate said...

Their conscious knows that killing a fetus is wrong, but they are lying to themselves. To placate their moral relativism makes any disagreement impossible.

I'm working on formulating an argument that defends even the youngest zygote based entirely on secular humanism. I call it "reverence for kinetic life energy." It might not be an original idea, but it's new to me. The basic ideas is since it is impossible to determine when life begins--that would require a formal definition of "life" which I don't think is possible--the most appropriate time to mark the beginning is when with no outside intervention a human will be crated. That point is when an egg is fertilized and when the "static" energy becomes "kinetic" energy."

Feel free to tear it apart or call me a copycat, it won't hurt my feelings.

JaredB said...

I thought I was pretty careful to state that I didn't believe abortion is morally right, but in case I didn't make it clear, I do think it's wrong. I'm also not trying to just be controversial or play the devil's advocate (a particularly relevant term in this case).

I do believe that progress can be made on this issue, but one surefire way to prevent that is for both sides to refuse to even consider how the other side perceives the issue, and to denounce reasonable dialog about it as some form of compromise in principles.

I'm not trying to redefine the word "killing"; I think it's pretty clear what that means. I'm not even trying to redefine what "alive" means. Actually, I'm not redefining anything; just saying that no one knows when a human becomes a person, probably because it's a spiritual process.

As Nate points out, it's fairly easy to establish an easily accepted point for which what you could call "life" begins, and developing humans certainly show very early signs of "life". I think what's still in question however is whether that living thing is a "person". This may appear to be a minor distinction, but it actually isn't when you consider how murder is defined.

There are plenty of things that are unquestionably "alive" that society has no problem killing, in order to provide us with food, etc. The difference between all of these acceptable killings and the killing of a human is that the human is a person. That's all I'm trying to point out; the definition of when a human becomes a person is up for debate. It's certainly not spelled out in scripture, but even if it were, there are people who would disagree with that being an authoritative source (again, not me, but just pointing it out).

Ironically, believing that the classification criteria for what makes up a "person" is a spiritual matter (as I do) makes this question more difficult, in my opinion. To the person who does not believe in such things, it would seem obvious that a "person" is simply another species of scientifically defined "life". (They then have a challenge in condemning murder while justifying eating burgers, but that's another story).

For those who believe that human people are uniquely given a spiritual aspect that makes them "persons", different from all other forms of life (that we know of), the interesting thing to consider is when that process takes place. THAT'S what I was talking about.

Sorry if it offended anyone; that wasn't my intention. I certainly believe in standing up for principles, and I'm not encouraging anyone to not do so. I just believe that having an understanding of the thought process of people that you disagree with is key in that stand. To not do this is to guarantee failure, in my opinion.

Nate said...

The argument that I'm working on specifically takes out the whole spiritual aspect of humanity. It is easy for most to agree that a humans are the most significant living things in known universe. Just based on intelligence and ability to reason. My argument also takes out the necessity for any uncertain, unstable definitions like "person." It does however make abortion the same crime as murder.

JaredB said...

That's an interesting approach, but I still think you would need some more criteria for murder then. If the only criteria that makes it wrong to kill certain types of life is "intelligence and ability to reason" then you would have to say that it's OK to kill humans who don't possess those qualities. Not only could this arguable include unborn children, but also people who were born with disabilities that would prevent them from being "intelligent" or being able to "reason", and don't forget old people whose mind goes out eventually, etc.

Nate said...

I'll think about that but for now I'll say it's not any one persons intelligence or ability to reason that requires that individual be treated with dignity and reverence, but the fact that humans in general are intelligent and able to reason that requires that all be treated with dignity and reverence.

Otherwise we would again degrade into meaningless conversations about what level of intelligence signifies life and how to measure it and so on ... I'll have to think about it.

Hmmm ... What about Data from Star Trek. Maybe I need to think about adding organic life in there.

Nate said...

And murder is of course unjustly,prematurely ending a human life.

I know you can jump all over what's "unjust" but I think I'll leave it at that for now. Of course, acts of self-defense are not considerd murder I'm sure a few other cases.

JaredB said...

Don't forget about when we eventually encounter alien life; how do we judge whether they can reason or whether they're intelligent?

Or what if they decide that we aren't?

Nate said...

If they decide we dont' deserve to be treated with dignity then we have too kill them. Just like in all the movies.

Otherwise, I think we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Nate said...

How about if they write poetry we'll let 'em in our circle.

jacquie said...

I heard the Bible Answer Man talking on this subject today on the radio.

JaredB said...

About aliens?

jacquie said...

Ya! I figured someone would say that!
Actually, The Bible Answer Man probably has alot to say about aliens, too.

nathan stryker said...

i wonder what torah answer man would say, since all four of the major jewish sects regard the starting point of life as the point at which a person is "brought up out of the womb."