SC turns down plea to abort 27-wk-old malformed foetus

Baby `Born Alive’ Could Be Ethical Issue
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a city woman’s plea to medically terminate her 27-week pregnancy because the baby could be “born alive“ if the process was allowed at this stage. The foetus suffers from a rare abnormality called the Arnold-Chiari malformation where the brain and spinal cord connect.The judgment was based on the medical evaluation conducted by the premier medical school at KEM Hospital, Parel, on Saturday . The pregnant woman’s lawyer, Sneha Mukherji, told TOI that the evaluation also mentioned that the foetus had severe abnormality . India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act sets a 20-week deadline on abortions, and many women have moved the SC in the last few years for permission to medically terminate their pregnancy due to medical abnormalities (see graphic).

Regarding Monday’s case, medical experts said a “live birth“ would pose an ethical problem for doctors on whether or not to resuscitate the baby (Indian laws don’t recognise the `do not resuscitate’ provision that is accepted in many other countries).

KEM Hospital dean Dr Avinash Supe, who headed the medical board, said, “The board took the call on medical grounds after several rounds of discussions. Moreover, the board found there is no substantial risk to the mother.“

Another board member who didn’t want to be named said, “We only looked at scans which cannot predict the extent of disability the child will suffer.“ The decision couldn’t be based on emotions or social reasons, the doctor said. Mukherji told TOI the pregnant woman didn’t want a special needs child because she has seen a close family member suffer with physical and mental disabilities. “She is very disturbed because this is just what she didn’t want,“ said Mukherji.

The pregnant woman, who doesn’t want to be named, underwent an ultrasound scan in the 15th week of pregnancy . “However, she was unaware about the anomaly scan that needs to be carried out in the 18th week. She underwent another ultrasound scan in the 24th week when doctors told her that her foetus is severely malformed,“ said a family friend.The woman used to go for her regular ante-natal checks at civic-run Shatabdi Hospital in Kandivli. By the time she decided to move SC, the Holi holiday break started. “We filed her plea as soon as the court reopened on March 20. It was heard on Thursday . KEM couldn’t conduct the examination on Friday due to the doctors’ strike. The tests were done on Saturday ,“ said Mukherji. But by this time, the woman’s pregnancy had advanced to 27 weeks, paving the way for the SC order.

We are creating victims of the system, alleges doc who had first moved court

The pregnant woman in this case had met gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar, the first to petition SC in 2008 along with his patient Niketa Mehta for abortion beyond the 20-week deadline. Dr Datar told TOI, “We are creating victims of the system. An analysis of women who’ve moved SC so far shows most hail from the lower socioeconomic strata and don’t have the awareness or money power needed to access the right treatment in time.“ He further said this patient had been regular with her ante-natal visits. “Was she negligent? It is delays in the system that led to this situation,“ he added. TNN

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