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Compassionate Treatment of Fetal Pain

There is no doubt that the neonate feels pain. There is also no doubt that the fetus feels pain but disagreement exists about when exactly during gestation does this fact have clinical and moral meaning. Those who disagree and those who agree that fetal pain is perceived in one way or another, actually look at the same data but from different perspectives. At present, there are indirect hormonal, sonographic, and Doppler evidence that fetal pain exists at 18-20 weeks' gestation and continues into the neonatal period. The debate is mainly about the presence or absence of functional thalmo-cortical axons—the probable prerequisite for nociception. When a fetus may undergo partial birth abortion, painful interventions, or termination, we believe that it is the duty of our profession to adopt a compassionate attitude to alleviate pain and suffering of the unborn child, starting at 18-20 weeks' gestation, as we do for our neonates.

Author(s): Isaac Blickstein Inbar Oppenheimer