by Mary Kay Hastings
From the New York Times, February 10:

… [W]hen Kanwaljeet Anand was a medical resident in a neonatal intensive care unit, his tiny patients, many of them preterm infants, were often wheeled out of the ward and into an operating room. He soon learned what to expect on their return. The babies came back in terrible shape: their skin was gray, their breathing shallow, their pulses weak.


That is when I discovered that the babies were not getting anesthesia, he recalled recently.

Doctors were convinced that newborns nervous systems were too immature to sense pain, and that the dangers of anesthesia exceeded any potential benefits.
In a series of clinical trials, Anand demonstrated that operations performed under minimal or no anesthesia produced a massive stress response in newborn babies, releasing a flood of fight-or-flight hormones like adrenaline and cortisol….

The fetus is not a little adult, Anand says, and we should not expect it to look or act like one. Rather, it is a singular being with a life of the senses that is different, but no less real, than our own.

If the notion that newborns are incapable of feeling pain was once widespread among doctors, a comparable assumption about fetuses was even more entrenched:

Nicholas Fisk
is a fetal-medicine specialist and director of the University of Queensland Center for Clinical Research in Australia, carried out a study that closely resembled Anands’ pioneering research, using fetuses rather than newborns as his subjects. He selected 45 fetuses that required a potentially painful blood transfusion, giving one-third of them an injection of the potent painkiller fentanyl. As with Anands’ experiments, the results were striking: in fetuses that received the analgesic, the production of stress hormones was halved, and the pattern of blood flow remained normal.
THE SAME MIGHT be said of the five children who were captured on video by a Swedish neuroscientist named Bjorn Merker on a trip to Disney World a few years ago:
The youngsters, ages 1 to 5, are shown smiling, laughing, fussing, crying; they appear alert and aware of what is going on around them. Yet each of these children was born essentially without a cerebral cortex. The condition is called hydranencephaly, in which the brain stem is preserved but the upper hemispheres are largely missing and replaced by fluid.


Merker (who has held positions at universities in Sweden and the United States but is currently unaffiliated) became interested in these children as the living embodiment of a scientific puzzle: where consciousness originates.

The tacit consensus concerning the cerebral cortex as the “organ of consciousness”, Merker wrote, may have been reached prematurely, and may in fact be seriously in error .

I urge you to please read the rest of the article here.

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