Medical progress is a truly wondrous thing. Before, babies born too early would almost certainly die; but it might surprise most that the first attempts to try keep them alive happened in the 1870s in Paris, after obstetrician Dr. Stéphane Tarnier decided to try using an incubator on human babies to keep them warm and save them from hypothermia after seeing an incubator warming baby chickens. I strongly urge you to read the article I linked. His insistence, and Dr. Couney’s advocacy and medical exhibit – a proof of life demonstration and charitable care – is some truly breath-taking medical history.
Couney never charged parents for the care he provided, which also included rotating shifts of doctors and nurses looking after the babies. According to historian Jeffrey Baker, Couney’s exhibits “offered a standard of technological care not matched in any hospital of the time.”
In a wonderful interview recorded by Storycorps and aired on NPR, a former incubator baby from one of Couney’s exhibits described how fragile she was at birth: “My father said I was so tiny, he could hold me in his hand,” said 95 year-old Lucille Horn, who was born prematurely in 1920 at the shockingly low birth weight of under two pounds. Baby Lucille was given no chance to live by her doctor.
“I couldn’t live on my own, I was too weak to survive … You just died because you didn’t belong in the world.” Horn said. But Horn’s father, who had seen one of Couney’s exhibits on his honeymoon, bundled tiny Lucille up and took her out of the hospital. “I’m taking her to the incubator in Coney Island. The doctor said there’s not a chance in hell that she’ll live, but he said, ‘But she’s alive now,’ and he hailed a cab and took me to Dr. Couney’s exhibit, and that’s where I stayed for about six months.”
Because of those men, babies who would’ve otherwise died didn’t, and their parents were given hope that their tiny baby would live. Medical progress, resulting in life that would otherwise been lost, now taken for granted today. As technology advanced, the earlier and earlier preterm babies could survive, until a baby born at 23-24 weeks could survive now. That ’24 week line was determined by available technology.
Go read the whole thing; this bit is awesome, but the philosophical lead-in is also very important and good.
I can’t comment there– neither of my browsers use Java– so I’ll post my comment here.
I was amused the first time I was accused of being pro-life because of my religion, because I wasn’t aware my religion <I>had</i> any teachings on abortion. (Yes, our local Catholic education was THAT bad; why would a volunteer want to talk to teens about something tough like abortion when she “knew” we supported it?)
Similar to you– scientifically based. Although mine was from exposure to animals, especially miscarried calves (there’s one plant that if they eat, you get an early second trimester abortion almost 100% of the time in cattle– the science teacher even had one of the calves in a big pickle jar. Absolutely perfect, just no hair….right down to his little tongue sticking out a bit, like they usually are right after birth.)