Opinion | Dr. David Prentice
For those of us already born, barring some pathological neural syndrome, when asked “If you prick us, do we not feel pain?” the answer would certainly be “yes.”
But what about those still-developing humans in the womb?
For years the consensus was “no,” not until well after birth. As science and medical observations advanced, the answer turned to “yes” but not until late in gestation (after 24 weeks) and only with the development of the cortex (the outermost, thinking layer of the brain).
Science continued to advance, especially in our knowledge of how and when our nerves and other tissues form as we grow and develop in our mother’s wombs. But sadly, many turned a blind eye to the science, preferring a blinkered interpretation that fit their desired narrative on the status of the fetus in the womb.
The title of an academic paper says it all: “Reconsidering fetal pain,” by two well-credentialed medical professionals, Stuart Derbyshire and John C. Bockmann.
The article is an honest, objective review of the scientific literature as it relates to the question of whether and when a child still in the womb can experience pain. Looking at the scientific evidence again with unbiased eyes, the authors’ answer was “yes,” perhaps as early as 12 weeks, and certainly after 18 weeks.
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