Uncertain Ground

On Friday evening during the course of a peaceful drive from Lexington to Louisville, I listened to a RadioLab podcast titled “23 Weeks 6 Days.” The podcast follows the story of a couple as they bring a premature baby into the world. The catching point to this story has to do with the baby’s age at the time of birth: 23 weeks and 6 days. 24 weeks is widely accepted by physicians and other neonatal experts as being the age of viability for a human fetus outside the womb. At 22 weeks, physicians and parents often decide on measures to either terminate the pregnancy or to not treat or resuscitate the premature child. At 25 weeks, standard practice is to do everything possible to save the life of the delicate child. Given this child’s age and condition, these parents must make a terrible decision for their child.

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5 responses to “Uncertain Ground”

  1. h4rr7h00d says :

    …so what did they decide and what was the outcome?

  2. keshain14 says :

    I can’t even begin to imagine being placed in the position where I had to make a decision like this one. You’ll have to let us know what they decided and why, I bet it’s a riveting story.

  3. bsly2013 says :

    I started listening to this podcast Friday, but didn’t finish it. It definitely wasn’t one of my favorites – what did you think?

  4. olivebecks says :

    What was the outcome? What kind of medical treatments did they face?

  5. cbfant13 says :

    The couple decided to do everything within reason to keep the child alive. This involved a respirator, incubator, etc. for the first few weeks of the child’s life. Then, a tear occurred in the child’s intestines. The parents then faced an even worse choice because surgery would likely oil the baby but was absolutely needed for the child to live. The surgeon did not want to perform the procedure because of what she believed would be an inability to suture up the child’s fragile skin (at one point the hosts take care to point out that you can’t rub the skin because it will peel off like paper).

    In the end, another surgeon does the procedure and the child lives. It eventually goes home and is still living a happy life.

    However, the moral of the story: most children in these situations don’t survive. Furthermore, the line between life and death, fetus and child–at least in my opinion–grows increasingly complex. As of now, we’ve described a fetus being viable once it is capable of surviving outside a mother’s womb. In class, we talked about the ramifications of “test tube” babies; here we see that we are getting better and better at cultivating naturally conceived children outside their mother’s wombs at earlier ages. Implications on our thoughts, our policies? I wonder…

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