Health Highlights: Sept. 17, 201309/17/13
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Fetal Pain Science Unclear
Since 2010, a dozen U.S. states have enacted laws banning
abortion at 20 weeks after conception, saying that fetuses can feel
pain at that point of development. However, the science is
Most scientists who have waded into the debate have said they
believe that if fetuses can feel pain, it's not until well after 20
weeks and after the point in time when nearly all abortions occur,
The New York Timesreported.
Abortion opponents say that some scientific research shows that
fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks after conception. One of those
scientists said fetuses could likely feel pain then, but added that
the few abortions performed at that point could be done in ways to
He and two other researchers do not believe their work or
current evidence provide scientific support for abortion laws based
on fetal pain,
In some cases, scientists' opinions have changed as more studies
have been conducted. One of those is Dr. Nicholas Fisk, a senior
maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Royal Brisbane and Women's
Hospital in Australia, and former president of the International
Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society.
He once believed that early fetal pain was "a major possibility"
after discovering that fetuses receiving blood transfusions showed
increased stress hormones and blood flow to the brain, and that
painkillers lowered those levels.
However, neurological research has convinced Fisk that fetal
pain "is not possible at all" before 24 weeks,
Supporters of fetal-pain abortion laws contend that surgeons'
use of anesthesia and painkillers when operating on fetuses in the
womb proves that fetuses feel pain. But fetal surgeons say the
drugs are used for reasons other than fetal pain.
Anesthesia is given to the mother and fetuses are given muscle
relaxants and narcotics, according to Dr. Scott Adzik, a fetal
surgeon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The drugs are given
to prevent pain in mothers, relax the uterus, immobilize the fetus
and block harmful effects of a fetus's hormonal stress response, he
Adzik said he did not know if fetuses would feel pain without
Supporters of fetal-pain abortion laws often cite the work of
Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology and
neurobiology at the University of Tennessee's Health Sciences
He believes it likely that fetuses can feel pain at 18 to 24
weeks, but added that the "issue of fetal pain does not have much
relevance for abortion, since most abortions are performed before
the fetus is capable of experiencing pain,"
6.6 Million Children Under Age 5 Died in 2012: UNICEF
Childhood death rates have fallen 50 percent worldwide since
1990, but about 6.6 million children under the age of 5 still died
last year, according to UNICEF.
The U.N. children's agency said that five countries -- China,
Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan -- account for nearly half of
all the children who die, the
The leading causes of death are malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea,
which claim the lives of about 6,000 children under age 5 each day.
A lack of nutrition contributes to nearly half these deaths, UNICEF
"Progress can and must be made," said Anthony Lake, the agency's executive director, the APreported. "When concerted action, sound strategies, adequate resources and strong political will are harnessed in support of child and maternal survival, dramatic reductions in child mortality aren't just feasible, they are morally imperative."
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