Friday, December 09, 2011

A hospice in the womb

When prenatal diagnosis brings bad news about their child, parents deserve a real choice of paths. Happily, there is a beautiful option available.
Carolyn Moynihan
Friday, 9 December 2011

In a Melbourne maternity hospital last month a very shocking event occurred. A healthy, 32-week-old, wanted, unborn child was killed by a lethal injection when the sonographer performing the procedure mistook the child for its unhealthy twin. When the mistake was realised, the mother had an emergency caesarean section and the sick child was also terminated, according to news reports. The whole tragic episode left the mother traumatised and everybody involved distraught.

And yet, on the face of it this was an entirely avoidable tragedy. The sick baby had been diagnosed with a severe heart defect that would probably lead to its death soon after birth, but that in itself would not pose a danger to the other twin or the mother. A specialist consulted by MercatorNet said that if there was a risk for some other reason, at 32 weeks these babies could have been delivered, with a 99 per cent chance of survival for the healthy baby in intensive care, while nature took its course for the sick baby. An abortion was recommended, it appears, because that is the standard medical approach after such a diagnosis, even in a single pregnancy.

“This story is sad on so many levels. There could have been a better way,” says Amy Kuebelbeck, an award-winning American journalist whose third child had a similar diagnosis and who has written about her experience in a well-received book, Waiting With Gabriel. The “way” she is talking about is that of perinatal hospice, a model of support pioneered by another American, Dr Byron Calhoun, currently vice-chair of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at West Virginia University-Charleston. the rest image


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