Lethal Sentiments by Anthony McCarthy

Lethal Sentiments

on Fetal Pain & False Humanitarianism

In a paper published last January in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the authors conclude that, in the light of recent neuroscientific data, they "no longer view fetal pain (as a core, immediate sensation) in a gestational window of 12–24 weeks as impossible based on the neuroscience." The lead author, Professor Stuart Derbyshire, a psychologist, was a member of the Working Party of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which put out a widely quoted report in 2010 stating that "the experience of pain needs cognitive, sensory and affective components, as well as the necessary anatomical and physiological neural connections." The report concluded that the unborn can only experience pain after 24 weeks, but that in any case, analgesics for a fetus being aborted are, on balance, not to be recommended even after that point.

Derbyshire now rejects such views and recommends that analgesics be considered much earlier, "especially after 18 weeks." In the light of new data, the (pro-choice) Derbyshire and his (pro-life) co-author write:

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Anthony McCarthy is the founder and director of Bios Centre and a visiting scholar in moral philosophy at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. He previously held the post of research fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford and holds degrees in philosophy from King's College London, University College London, and the University of Surrey. He has lectured widely and published on ethical issues for both academic and wider audiences.


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