This article confirms what I said here about the difficulty of enforcing born-alive infant protections. The testimony of many nurses shows a pervasive pattern of overt discrimination against premature babies in withholding life-saving treatment based on the fact that they have survived abortions. One of these accounts also shows evidence of an underestimate of the child's age, suspiciously given as "23 weeks," which is just under what many hospitals would consider viable. Given that abortionists' assistants deliberately manipulate ultrasounds and lie about gestational age, this is significant.
The nurse from Labor and Delivery walked into our unit carrying a blanket and stating “This is a prostaglandin abortion. He has a heartbeat so we brought him over.” The baby was placed under a radiant warmer and I was told the rest of the facts. The gestational age of the baby was given to be 23 weeks by ultrasound. The mother had cancer and had received chemotherapy treatments before discovering that she was pregnant. The parents had been told that their baby would be horribly deformed because of the chemotherapy.
I looked at the baby boy lying before me, and saw that from all appearances he was perfect. He had a good strong heartbeat. I could tell this without using a stethoscope because I could see his chest moving in sync with his heart rate. With a stethoscope I heard a heart pumping strongly. I look at his size and his skin — he definitely looked more mature than 23 weeks. He was weighed and I discovered that he was 900 grams, almost two pounds. This was almost twice the weight of some babies we have been able to save. A doctor was summoned. When she arrived the baby started moving his tiny arms and legs flailing. He started trying to gasp, but was unable to get air into his lungs. His whole body shuddered with his efforts to breathe. We were joined by a neonatalist and I pleaded with both doctors saying, “The baby is viable — look at his size, look at his skin — he looks much older than 23 weeks.”
It was a horrible moment as each of us wrestled with our own ethical standards. I argued that we should make an attempt to resuscitate him, to get him breathing. The resident doctor told me, “This is an abortion. We have no right to interfere.” The specialist, who had the responsibility for the decision, was wringing his hands and quietly saying, “This is so hard. Oh, God, it’s so hard when it’s this close.” In the end, I lost. We were not going to try to resuscitate this baby. So, I did the only thing I could do. Dipping my index finger into sterile water and placing it on his head, I baptized the child.
Note that the (female) resident in this case expressly stated that they "had no right to interfere" because "this is an abortion." No, lady, this isn't an abortion. This is a baby. The abortion is over. The story doesn't say in what year it occurred.
What's particularly disturbing about this is that even a good law like Florida's proposed born-alive protection act that requires the baby to be taken to a hospital from an abortion clinic could run into this problem: Doctors who believe that it's acceptable to refuse assistance to the child precisely because it is unwanted and was born after an attempted abortion.
This is only going to be stopped when this type of discrimination is combated at least passionately and with as draconian measures as all the bajillion types of discrimination that our country already demonizes and outlaws at every conceivable level of jurisdiction and that the various levels of government make darned good and sure to prosecute or sue over. (These don't involve leaving babies to gasp out their last breaths without assistance, I might add.) Suppose, for example, that all hospitals had policies and training telling their neonatologists, residents, nurses--everyone involved--that "this is an abortion" must be irrelevant to the decision as to whether to give a baby breathing assistance. Suppose that there were penalties for such discrimination. Hospitals might also encourage nurse whistle blowing (and the evidence of the accounts we have indicates that there might well be nurse whistle blowing) of suspected cases of discrimination against babies who survive abortion.
And here's a creative idea: Carefully worded state legislation could support doctors in following such non-discrimination policy. For example, state legislation could craft an exception to the presumption of parental rights in treatment decisions and encourage doctors to render aid. The legislation could say something to the effect that a doctor who treats a newborn child against his parent's or parents' wishes in pursuit of a hospital policy of non-discrimination protecting babies who are unwanted and/or who survive an abortion shall be free from civil suit for rendering aid to the child
Could such regulations be circumvented? Of course. Deciding on what measures to take in treating a premature newborn is always a judgement call. But it sounds to me as though hospitals are not making any attempt at all to root out the division of preemies into wanted first-class citizens and unwanted second-class citizens. Direct legal and moral education is missing. Someone should have been able to speak up to that resident and to the agonized neonatologist and say, "You both know that it is against the policy of _____ hospital for you to take into account the fact that this child survived an abortion in a decision to deny treatment. You must give this child treatment if you would give it to a wanted newborn." Doctors should also be informed of the possibility that those (even in the same hospital) who performed the abortion may have underestimated gestational age and that gestational age needs to be reevaluated at birth.
I'm not holding my breath for any of this to take place, but this is what is needed.
Second item: Wesley J. Smith has discovered that, surprise, surprise, the decision as to whether a patient is a good candidate for organ donation, and the discussion of organ donation with the patient's family, is not kept hermetically separated from decisions about the patient's care. No, indeed. This doesn't come as a surprise to me, because I, like many others, have heard anecdotes about families with whom medical personnel have definitely been discussing organ donation prior to the family's having made a decision about whether to withdraw life-sustaining care such as a ventilator.
What Smith is noting, however, is that the Organ Procurement Organization Committee, which is the committee in charge of policies regarding organ donation, has explicitly rejected a proposal that it clarify its policies to make clear that there should be a firewall between decisions about care and evaluation of potential donors and discussion of donation with family. Whoever proposed the policy clarification (we don't know who it was) was under the impression, poor fellow, that such a firewall commonly exists (the proposer notes that such a firewall is recommended by the Institute of Medicine), and he was simply asking the committee to make this explicit. The committee expresses surprise that anyone should have believed this to be long-standing policy and explicitly rejects it, declaring that evaluation for suitable donor status should go on before anything is discussed with the family and that discussion with the family should be able to take place before the family has made decisions about end-of-life care for the patient! The pro-donation commentators at Smith's site are positively dismissive about any idea that this might, you know, create problems in which end-of-life care decisions are actually influenced in a pro-death direction by the desire for the patient to be an organ donor. Yet that possibility is, of course, very real.
Moreover, the OPO (the committee) says a couple of other telling things:
--They are very concerned that the patient be evaluated before discussion with the family, because the patient might have signed an organ donor card and might be in a registry as a donor. In that case, the family has no say in whether the patient is to be used as an organ donor, and the OPO wouldn't want the family to get the idea that they can veto the use of their relative as a donor! (p. 7) So the family should be presented with an evaluation first, so that they are definitely told, "Your relative can be an organ donor. Sorry, you don't get to veto this." I note that, if no organ donation card is found on the patient's person and if the person hasn't entered himself into any registry, this could be misleading in the other direction. An evaluation might proceed based on the patient's medical characteristics (the committee expressly says that this takes place), and nothing is more likely (I say) than that the family will be given the impression that they have no veto power over donation even if they do. "We've already evaluated your relative, and he is a candidate." The committee is curiously unworried about that possible confusion.
--The committee expressly wants conscious patients, such as patients suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) to be able to be evaluated as candidates for organ donation. (pp. 5-6) Yes, you read that right. These would be patients who are ventilator dependent but conscious and who might want to be used in what is called a non-heart-beating donation. Here's how it would go: The patient says, "I want you to take me off the ventilator and donate my organs." The organ procurement team doesn't need familial consent, because the patient just gave consent. So the organ procurement team comes in, the patient is taken off the vent., his heart stops beating for the extremely minimal time required (which could be as little as a minute and a half or two minutes), and his organs are taken.
If all of this doesn't give you pause, it should.
Third miscellaneous item: Wesley J. Smith makes the interesting point that the Kansas law stating the obvious biological fact that a new human life begins at conception could allow the regulation of the treatment of embryos conceived outside the womb.
He has a good point. Though it is true that, logically, an unborn child within the womb is worth no less than an unborn child outside the womb, legally, the treatment unborn child within the womb is allegedly constrained by the lawless Roe v. Wade, which was all based on a woman's alleged right to physical autonomy. A child outside the womb, therefore, even at the earliest stages of life, could potentially be protected more rigorously. We see this at the end of pregnancy, with the whole issue of born-alive infant protection acts and the prosecution of Kermit Gosnell for active post-birth infanticide. Ironically, we also have children outside of the womb at the very earliest stages, those stages where they "don't look like babies," because of IVF. They shouldn't be there, but there they are. Now, if a state could decisively outlaw using them for research (for example), that would remove one motive for manufacturing them. It would also allow the regulation of IVF. Unlike Smith, who doesn't want to ban IVF but does want to regulate it, I would love to ban it. A state like Kansas that has defined human life as beginning at conception could build on that in multiple ways to protect its youngest citizens outside of the womb. I hope they do so. They should start by banning embryo-destructive research within the state.