NRL News

A far more humane alternative than abortion for babies with lethal anomalies: Perinatal Hospice Part four of four

by | May 22, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Bryon Calhoun gently and compassionately addressed an objection to the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” when he testified last Thursday before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee. Dr. Calhoun, a Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, West Virginia University-Charleston, said

“Objections have been raised to this legislation by some who say that abortion should be permitted even after 22 weeks LMP (20 weeks fetal age) because it is the necessary and appropriate way to deal with a fetus with significant physical anomalies including lethal anomalies. I do not agree. There are other alternatives that are far more humane for both parents and child.”

In both his written testimony and in the video of his oral testimony, Dr. Calhoun explained the underlying rationale behind the use of perinatal hospice for infants with fetal abnormalities. 

Dr. Calhoun talked about what was at work behind “the well-intentioned desires to ‘spare the mother and family’ a distressing experience, a need to ‘get it over with,’ an obstetrical provider’s need to ‘do something’ and deal with the discomfort of bereaved patients, an ill-informed desire to avoid complications of pregnancy, and an unsubstantiated fear of increased maternal mortality” and explained how each is ill-informed or misses the real needs of the family.

As he noted

“The care in perinatal hospice differs in emphasis, not type of care from other modes of perinatal care. Its primary focus is on the family and not the fetal diagnosis. The family is placed in the center of the care and there is a continuum of support from the diagnosis, through death, and grief. It agrees  with Knapp et al, that “dying involves real people, even unborn fetuses [and that] significant relationships are disrupted and familiar bonds are severed.”

Dr. Calhoun’s testimony is very, very much worth reading, for there will be families who will someday find themselves in this tragic situation. His memorable conclusion:

“What started as a small, simple idea to promote patient-centered choice and honoring care, has blossomed into a national and international movement for compassionate care for families.

“We look forward to the day when all parents will be allowed to ‘just be parents’ and love their children for however long they may tarry.”

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Categories: Legislation