Sunday, November 04, 2007

Doctor Sunny Anand on fetal pain

Dr. Sunny Anand, one of the world's foremost experts on fetal pain, published a letter on the issue in the London Times, within the context of the abortion law review in the UK. He writes:

The RCOG view ignores the development of foetal sensory processing, functional subplate zone (below the cerebral cortex), and sub-cortical mechanisms of consciousness that support foetal memory and learning. Three key flaws beleaguer their scientific rationale to rule out foetal pain.

First, pain is not transmitted by a hard-wired system, passively transmitting impulses until “perception” occurs in the cortex. Forty years of pain research have discarded this view. Secondly, foetal pain does not engage the same structures as those activated by adult pain. The foetus is not a “little adult” — foetal pain is mediated by mechanisms unique from adults. Thirdly, it ignores clinical data that ablation or stimulation of the sensory cortex does not alter adult pain perception, whereas thalamic ablation or stimulation does. The foetal thalamus develops in the second trimester, well before the cortex. If the sensory cortex is not essential for adult pain, why is foetal pain held to that standard?

I write this, because commenter Joe Agnost and I had a long debate about Sunny Anand. Just wanted to bring this up.