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March 13, 2007

During early fetal development, sometimes the esophagus fails to develop normally, a condition known as esophageal atresia. This happens once in about 3500 pregnancies, and doctors can frequently diagnose this condition by ultrasound prior to birth.

Except that sometimes the doctors are wrong.

In a teaching hospital in Florence, Italy, a woman had an abortion 22 weeks into her pregnancy. She chose this course after two separate ultrasound exams failed to detect the stomach, which the physicians interpreted as evidence for esophageal atresia. After the abortion, the baby was born alive, and doctors realized that he was perfectly normal. Weighting just 500 grams, the baby is now fighting for life in a pediatric intensive care unit. Due to a brain hemorrhage from the attempted abortion, the child is not expected to survive.

Dr. Joe DeCook, a pro-life colleague of mine, put it this way:

Doctors should be really careful when they assume God-like wisdom, and intrude into the realm of suggesting preemptive death as a treatment.

Granted, the hospital claims that their doctors advised the woman to seek further diagnostic tests, and she chose additional input from a private clinic. Yet the physicians should have told her two things:

  • An ultrasound test can sometimes be misleading (as it was in this case)
  • Even if present, a malformed esophgus can be surgically repaired, with a high likelihood of a normal life afterward.

Given the circumstances, the Vatican newspaper said that the child’s life had been “thrown away.”

Daily Telegraph article

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