Intended for healthcare professionals


Antiabortionists hijack fetal pain argument

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 27 July 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:188

Claims by antiabortionists that fetuses can feel pain at 10 weeks' gestation have been criticised by specialists. Last week the all party parliamentary pro-life group produced a review of previously published data relating to anatomical structures involved in awareness of pain. In Fetal Sentience 15 scientists from Britain, Ireland, and Australia claim that the fetus can feel pain from the tenth week of gestation, much earlier than previously thought.

The cerebral cortex is not the only area of the brain that is responsible for consciousness (thought to be a prerequisite for feeling pain), says the report. It cites three cases— anencephalic infants, a patient with the persistent vegetative state, and a student with hydrocephalus—who have non-existent, …

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