more on this moral issue

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Some 'Catholic' hospitals offer preterm induction of labor at very early gestational ages for babies known to have lethal birth defects.
The Case against Premature Induction
Prenatal Ethics from OSV


I had a recent situation like this in my practice. It was with a young Mormon couple, both in Veterinary medicine so medically sophisticated. It became clear fairly early in the pregancy that something wasn't right- small uterus, and US showing no amniotic fluid. Many tests later the high risk OB and I determined that the baby had no kidneys, and the usual complement of defects that go along with it. The couple wanted to deliver the baby then (30 weeks at this point.) I was very uncomfortable about this and initially said no, but then decided to explore the issue with several priest friends whose opinion I trusted. After pondering the situation for a while they thought it could be licit, if the emotional distress to the mother was imparing her health. At this point the government entered the picture, and indicated that medicaid would not pay for labor induction for this reason. So, we watched the baby grow and develop, encouraging the parents to share the brief time together they would have. The baby survived to term, and was delivered as a breech. He ended up breathing fairly well for several hours. I called the Neonatologist for his advice, repeated the US's on the now born infant to make sure that there was still no chance of any life-saving intervention. He was annointed in the Mormon fashion, I prayed for him but didn't baptise him- maybe I should have- then he died. As you can imagine, it was a very emotional and difficult situation to deal with.

PS- I wish I were aware those articles in OSV back when we were wrestling with that decision!!

As someone who carried a baby to term after a diagnosis of anencephaly, I cannot say it was any "harder" than delivering at 22 weeks would have been.

Emily became a person to everyone around us because they could see her growing as I became rounder. She wasn't just an invisible baby. Because Americans are conditioned not to talk about abortions because it's between a woman and her doctor, many women who terminate babies with birth defects get NO support after the birth. How is this better for them? They try to value their baby as their baby (which the baby certainly is) but then are told "Just go have another one" as if babies are replaceable. It's very confusing to the parents, who want to love each baby as an individual and yet by their actions say that if one baby isn't good enough then you go get another one, as if they were house plants.

There is no perfect answer to this kind of situation, and no one wants parents to be in pain, but the fact is, if the baby is going to die, then the parents ARE going to suffer. I think it's easier to grow to know the baby before the baby passes on, and to give others a chance to do the same, than to immediately end the pregnancy and have to deal with the shock and the loss and the questions all at the same time, and all by yourself.

My website is a guide for parents carrying to term after a fatal diagnosis. I moderate an online group for moms who are carrying to term after diagnosis of anencephaly, and it has 200+ members. I also belong to a group of women who carried to term or delivered immediately after diagnosis. My observations are drawn from four years of interacting with these women.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on September 16, 2004 9:56 AM.

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