Letter: Parliament must rule on birth ethics

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The Independent Online
Sir: As you report (leading article, 19 February), the foetus has no legal rights until born, so that an intervention intended to benefit the foetus is difficult to support legally against the mother's wishes.

At 36 weeks' gestation, the foetus in this case would probably not have needed any medical intervention once delivered, but if left inside a woman suffering fulminant pre-eclampsia might well have died. You compared this with parents refusing treatment for their child, when a court order to allow the treatment against the parents' wishes could be granted. It is difficult to understand the reasons for the special legal position of the foetus. Why should one patient fully capable of independent life be legally different from another? Neither can voice their opinion and we must assume that both would want to live, taking advantage of medical intervention, as most rational adults do.

Much of our law revolves around the principle that no individual's action should harm another. Just because one individual is temporally receiving nutrients and oxygen inside another should not alter this, as long as it does not endanger the mother's life.


St George's Hospital Medical School

London SW17