Letter: Protect the unborn child

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Court of Appeal may have, for the time being, resolved the legal issues relating to the case of Ms S ("Mothers win right to refuse Caesareans", 8 May) but it totally disregarded the ethical issues, which will not go away.

Consider the following scenarios. In the first, a woman goes into labour at eight months but the previously healthy baby shows signs of severe distress and a Caesarean section is advised to save the baby's life. The mother refuses, on the grounds that it will interfere with the natural process of birth which she has always wanted. Several hours later the baby is born dead. In the second, a woman goes into labour at eight months and delivers a healthy baby which she does not want. Before it can start to breathe, she smothers it and is later charged with murder.

These cases are extreme but they can and do occur, and if they throw up issues which the law cannot deal with in a logical and morally responsible way, then the law needs to be changed. A mature foetus is a sentient being - aware of its surroundings, able to hear and feel pain. Surely it is due some protection in a civilised society.

Professor RICHARD OLVER FRCP

SUSAN OLVER RSCN

St Andrews, Fife

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