Recently I have become aware of information so disturbing and troubling that as a result I was moved to write a letter to ‘The Veterinarian‘ magazine. Please read the letter and make your own mind:
As a modern Veterinary Practitioner I am meticulous in ensuring that anesthesia and pain relief are provided where possible to all species and in all circumstances where pain is administered during treatment. I am certain that my colleagues – your readers are in agreement on the need to provide timely pain relief in our practice.
This is why I have been greatly disturbed by my recent discovery which came about through a chance conversation with a medical colleague – namely that it is currently outside standard practice to administer anesthesia to a baby born alive after a late term abortion in Victoria. The Victorian Abortion Reform Act 2008 has legalized late term abortion up to 9th month of pregnancy. Public records indicate that at least 57 foetuses were born alive during such abortions. These fetuses were not administered pain relief or anesthesia of any kind. Indeed, an amendment to mandate administration of pain relief to a fetus (VicHansard 3625-3639) was voted down by the Parliament.
This is not a discussion about ethical or ideological considerations. On the contrary, I hold a view that ideological considerations should never obscure the scientific realities of medical practice. There is overwhelming evidence that a near-term fetus has the cerebral and peripheral nervous system development necessary to generate a response to pain similar to that of more developed organisms. I sincerely hope that the view of pain relief as an optional extra has been relegated to the bad old days of Veterinary science and, I would hope of medical science as well. As Veterinary practitioners we should be leading from the front, even if this sometimes requires us respectfully correcting our human-trained colleagues. I encourage the readers of this letter to join their voices and call upon their respective lawmakers to change an outdated practice that is truly out of step with community expectation and scientific thinking.’
I look forward to receiving feedback from this letter and will post any relevant updates.