View Full Version : Nice study but I thought they were supposed to be unbiased

08-26-2005, 07:31 AM
Just thought I'd post this before some lib (cough....DEnise) posts this new report in the JAMA. I even bolded important sentences/paragraphs just like they do to draw your attention to specific sections. :)

SUMMARY: Top scientists question validity of report that says preborns don't experience pain until third trimester.

World-renowned scientists have joined hands with pro-family groups to call into question a study on fetal pain published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The paper, written by five researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, purports to review nearly 2,000 studies on the topic, concluding that fetal anesthesia during abortion is not justified by scientific evidence.

But Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the paper isn't really science at all -- it's "a political exercise" obviously designed to influence legislation now pending in Congress.

"Most of the press accounts (of the study) failed to inform readers or viewers about the origins of this so-called report," Johnson said. "They didn't do any research; they just interpreted existing papers through a filter -- and the filter is this: You have to prove that the unborn child is actually experiencing this in a conscious way. And, of course, that can't be proved beyond doubt -- the same way we can't prove that an animal experiences pain."

Worse, he said, the "research" is tainted from the get-go by the appearance of impropriety.

"The lead author of the study, Susan Lee, is a medical student previously employed by the National Abortion Rights Action League," Johnson told CitizenLink. "One of the four physician authors of the study, Dr. Elizabeth Drey, runs an abortion clinic in San Francisco."

Indeed, Drey is medical director of the abortion clinic at San Francisco General Hospital.

What's more, Johnson said [b]many of the study's authors were also associated with the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy at the University of California-San Francisco -- a pro-abortion advocacy center which boasts of its effectiveness in expanding access to abortion and training physicians how to perform late-term abortions.

"None of this, however, was shared with the readers of the Journal of the American Medical Association," Johnson noted, "or most of the people who have seen some coverage of this so-called study."

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior analyst for bioethics at Focus on the Family Action, said a double standard has been applied to this research.

"If a medical student who formerly worked for a pro-life organization teamed up with a pregnancy resource center director and three others to publish research that found that abortion harmed women," Earll explained, "it would be rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association due to conflict of interest. The fact that JAMA stands by its publishing of this research -- despite the direct conflicts of interest -- confirms JAMA's pro-abortion stance."

JAMA Editor-in-Chief Catherine D. DeAngelis was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying that she had not known of the researchers' pro-abortion backgrounds.

<The Science vs. The Report>

But bias isn't all that's wrong with the study. Top scientists looking at the claims made by the authors of this paper are incredulous over the authors' claim that a preborn child does not experience pain until the 29th week.

"They have literally stuck their hands into a hornet's nest," Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, America's top fetal-pain researcher, told The Associated Press.

Anand's research has found that preborns as young as 20 weeks old can feel pain -- and he told that to a New York federal court during a trial over the U.S. law banning partial-birth abortion.

"This is going to inflame a lot of scientists who are very, very concerned and are far more knowledgeable in this area than the authors appear to be," Anand was quoted as saying.

One of those scientists, University of Toronto neurologist Dr. Paul Ranalli, whose own work was part of the research the San Francisco study surveyed, told CitizenLink he was suspicious of the study from the outset.

"The results contradict what modern scientific evidence in the last eight to 10 years has told us about when pain likely begins to be perceptible by the fetus," he noted.
"On reviewing the article, I realized why. It's because they misstated some of the conclusions in the articles, and made generalizations that were simply untrue."

There were blatant contradictions within the paper, Ranalli said. For instance, the scientific literature shows brain activity early on in preborns.

"Ironically, they actually correctly and exhaustively reviewed most of the major papers with the anatomic, physiologic and electrical evidence of the fetus' brain,"
Ranalli said, "but then they seemed not to understand what they were reading."

Dr. Jean Wright, executive director of the Backus Children's Hospital in Savannah, Ga., and a member of the Focus on the Family Physician's Resource Council, said her initial reaction to the study was, "Oh, please!"

"Anyone who has walked through a neonatal intensive care unit and seen a 25-26-, 28-weeker knows that's not true,"
Wright told CitizenLink. "There's our perfect place for studying in-utero pain to the fetus, because we have those babies every single day in our hospitals, essentially on the outside, where we can look at their grimace, see their reaction to pain and measure their stress hormones."

Moreover, she said, the evidence is clear: Babies much younger than 29 weeks can feel pain.

"When I look at the 20-week fetus, there are pain receptors that cover the entire body -- starting at week six," she explained. "The nerves have progressed from the head down to the feet; they've connected with the spinal cord; there are little packets of protein that go from one nerve ending to another. When we measure the response to a painful stimulus -- either by hormones or other tests we use -- all those things are there.

"Because a baby can't say 'Ouch,' does that not make it pain? I don't think so."

For National Right to Life's Johnson, the study's conclusion just doesn't make sense.

"It defies common sense to believe that a baby who's been born prematurely can experience pain and needs anesthesia, but a baby a month or five weeks older, who's still in the womb, experiences no pain when her arms or legs are being cut off," he said. "That's what the authors of this paper would have us believe."

While the study tries to refute the need for the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., which is making its way through Congress, Brownback said he is unfazed.

"It is now established that the child in the womb does experience pain," he said. "The question is, when does that pain start? The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is a bill to give mothers that information: that a child in the womb does experience pain and also provide her with information about anesthesia for the child.

"I don't see anything in this study that changes my mind about the bill."

Link (http://www.family.org/cforum/feature/a0037655.cfm)