Letters

Do fetuses feel pain?

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7088.1201 (Published 19 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1201

Surgical terminations of pregnancy take place under general anaesthesia

  1. Wendy Savage, Press officer, Doctors for a Woman's Choice on Abortiona
  1. a 19 Vincent Terrace, London N1 8HN
  2. b Department of Physiology, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH
  3. c University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Department of Radiology, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

    Editor-Peter McCullagh1 and P J Saunders2 link the theoretical possibility that the fetus may feel pain (albeit much earlier than most embryologists and physiologists consider likely) with the procedure of legal abortion. Doctors for a Woman's Choice on Abortion consider this to be unhelpful to women and to the scientific debate.

    In Britain virtually all surgical terminations of pregnancy take place under general anaesthesia, which will affect the fetus. The question of whether the fetus experiences pain is not an issue as far as abortion is concerned, although those experts in fetomaternal medicine who are operating on the more mature fetus in utero need to consider whether women should have general anaesthesia for these procedures.

    References

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    Definition of pain needs clarification

    1. Patrick D Wall, Professorb
    1. a 19 Vincent Terrace, London N1 8HN
    2. b Department of Physiology, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH
    3. c University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Department of Radiology, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

      Editor-Peter McCullagh1 compounds the confusion of Vivette Glover and Nicholas Fisk over whether fetuses feel pain.2 They show …

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