27 January 2006

In-utero heart surgery

After reading a Boston Globe article, I wondered about the reasoning behind performing heart surgery on the fetus of a then 7-months-pregnant Virginia woman. I doubted it was safer for the mother than allowing her to carry the deformed fetus to term. It might've possibly be more cost effective than performing the same surgery after birth. And the article said nothing about survival chances after this surgery. I concluded (at first) that it was yet another publicity stunt for right-to-lifers claiming that the fetus was alive.

And then I read the Children's Hospital article. As I should've expected, the media hadn't fully explained the case. It's not that they'd performed the surgery and that was it, the baby was born, no more surgery, and now it had a 20% chance of surviving. In fact, the heart condition the fetus had would've meant it would've been born already oxygen deprived. Going into the heart surgery just after birth already oxygen deprived is what made for the 20-50% survival rate. Instead, once the in-utero surgery was performed, the newborn still had to undergo the surgery, but had a significantly increased chance of survival, and in fact did survive.

The Children's Hospital article didn't address my questions of how much it cost, and survival rate including the in-utero surgery, but you can't have your cake and eat it too (except that it was my birthday this week and I did), and as a pro-choicer I'm still a little concerned about the whole anthropomorphizing of the fetus, but less so. Honestly, I don't know what I would do in that situation myself.


utenzi said...

Happy belated birthday, ZP.

zandperl said...

Thanks! Been wondering where you were. :-P

Marie said...

Anthromorphizing a 7 month gestation baby that you can perform heart surgery on? I don't think you are handling obvious truth.

Anthromorphizing is what we do when we make believe in our minds that animals are real, right? Like Bambi? Like my dog really understand what I'm saying to him?

You put an unborn human being on the imaginary plane of "the cat lady's" cats?

zandperl said...

You have the definition of "anthropomorphize" right, but you missed some other important points. I said, "Honestly, I don't know what I would do in that situation myself." If you skim through my archives you may see that I'm a pro-choice liberal, but that I don't blindly accept the whole "party line." For the past few months I've particularly been trying to understand why it is that I feel abortion is ok but the death penalty is mildly distasteful (that is the standard liberal viewpoint, though I used to be for the death penalty), and why conservatives typically feel the opposite, that abortion is bad and the death penalty is good.

However, this blog focuses on science, and science hasn't, and I don't think can, establish when a fetus is "human." Other bits of politics generally only come into this blog peripherally. If you're actually curious about my opinions on political issues, it ends up in my personal blog more frequently.

Tired Tunia said...

Pretty sure you would do the same thing. I'm a pro-choice feminist with two kids. After carrying a baby 7 months, it is a part of you but is also a person as well. At that point, it is a baby. I don't care what number of weeks the whole "when is a fetus a human" debate decides on, when you've felt that baby in you for months, it is a real human being that you would grieve for if it were lost. I have no problems with in utero surgery. As far as how much it cost, how much money is spent on surgeries and medical procedures for people over the age of 85? Or 90? Ok, thanks for letting me rant!

zandperl said...

Tired Tunia:
Not a problem, you're still being respectful so I've no problem with it. If you were calling me a stupid baby-murderer on the other hand... ;)

I think I'd do the same thing, but I'm not sure. I never said I blamed that couple for their choice or that I thought they should have chosen otherwise, though I at first did question their motives. *shrug* Abortion is a tough topic, and I really think no one knows what they'll pick until they're in that situation. (link c/o Marquiswildbill)