Fetuses can feel painBMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7548.1036 (Published 27 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1036
All rapid responses
There had been some interesting arguments regarding the correct
timing of the development of fetal pain. There is not much proven evidence
in this area. But touch and pressure sensation are undoubtedly present in
fetal babies from 16 to 20 weeks of period of amenorrhoea.That is why a
multi parous mother sense the moments of the baby when she strokes her
tummy around this period and the house officer or the mid wife gets a kick
from the fetal baby when they examine the mother from around 28 weeks
Sensory nerves, the thalamus and the motor nerves are developed
around 8 to 10 weeks of period of amenorrhoea.They are the basic
anatomical structures necessary to feel pain. So it is clear that even
deliberately aborted fetuses should feel pain. Changes in heart rate and
fetal movements observed suggest that intrauterine manipulations are
painful to the fetuses.
A real time ultrasound scan of an abortion of a 12 weeker
dramatically shows the fetal baby dodging the suction instrument from time
to time while its heart beat doubles in rate until its body is being
disseminated. It has clearly showed the amount of suffering and pain it
has to undergo before it dies fulfilling the parents wish.
But one can argue that without the full development of the cerebral
cortex, although it feels the pain there is no appreciation of it. But the
thalamus is responsible to feel pain and the cortex is irrelevant
structure in this regard.
These facts give a valid reason to rethink for couples who plan to
destroy the product of their unprotected sex.But at the end of the day it
will be the fetal baby or if it survives until delivery, the unwanted
newborn baby is the one who suffer.
1. Volman and Pearson,’ what the fetus feels', BMJ, Jan 26 1980, pp
Competing interests: No competing interests