Thursday, April 5, 2007

Fetal Surgery on Video [Serge]

It seems House played an episode last night that featured fetal surgery. This has started a bit of a debate on Pro-life blogs whether or not a fetus would reach up and grab a surgeon who entered into her mother's uterus during surgery.

It doesn't take much reflection to understand that a fetus under anesthesia during surgery would not have the ability to "reach and grab" the hand of the surgeon. To be conclusive here is a video of fetal surgery on TLC a few years ago. It seems clear that the child is anesthetized and unable to reach and and grasp the surgeon, even though they did pose a "hand in the surgeon's glove" picture.


  1. Isn't this missing the point? Who cares if it was medically possible? The episode illustrated the humanity of the unborn baby in that scene and others in the show. We so rarely get popular media to treat the pro-life side with respect and show the unborn baby who's at the heart of this issue, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Be thankful millions of Americans got to see that an unborn baby is indeed a human being.

  2. Serge,
    I watched the "House" episode to which you refer. The "video" was quite obviously hoaky. Most viewers would be oblivious to the fact that an anesthetized baby would be unable to reach out in the way it was portrayed. Most viewers might also miss the irony of the need to anesthetize a non viable "creature" that supposedly feels no pain. But these facts overlook what I thought was the central point of the show, and one that we pro-lifers should applaud.

    In this particular episode, the dilemma that arose was how to save a dying, pregnant mother whose baby was not yet "viable." Of course, the mother had been impregnated by the donated sperm of a homosexual co-worker. Though this fact played absolutely no part in the plot, it was jammed into the story for reasons only Hollywood could explain.

    There were several medical and moral issues (which I won't get into here)involved in the story, especially after it was discovered that the baby was the source of the mother's rapidly deteriorating condition. Once that fact came to light, House's response was immediate and unrelenting: "Terminate the pregnancy to save the mother."

    In his capacity as the head Dr. on the case, House was insistent that the baby could only be referred to as "the fetus" for all the reasons many pro-lifers object to the insidious misuse of that term. Not only that, he took it further, later labeling the baby a "tumor" and a "parasite." To House, the very notion that the baby was anything more than a murdering invader to the mother was ridiculous and, in fact, constituted a morally reprehensible belief that would end with both a dead "fetus" and a dead mom.

    Fast forward to the in-utero surgery. This was meant to repair the defect in the baby and, in turn, save both the baby and the mother. Over House's verbal and physical objections (he tried to cut the umbilical cord), the surgery was successful. During the surgery there was the poignant scene where the baby grasped his finger ... and left him speechless and obviously moved.

    For House to show any such emotion is remarkable. What was even more remarkable was that, after the event, he began to refer to the child as a "baby," much to his co-workers' amazement. At the end of the episode, the recovering mother thanked him for his professionalism. His reply: "Don't thank me, I would have killed your kid."

    So, while the video may have been unrealistic (nothing new for Hollywood there), the message that came across from the most sardonic, abrasive character on TV (as far as I can tell) was his realization that the entity formerly known only as a "fetus" (in the deliberately wrong way), a "tumor" and a "parasite," was actually a human person.

    No complaints from me about that.

  3. What about during a C-section? If the mother is anesthetized, the baby isn't. Depending on the nature of the surgery, it seems to me that it's plausible for the mother to be anestheized, and not the baby, especially given that there is a disagreement as to whether unborn babies feel pain.

  4. Dear Serge,

    I am the photogrpher that took the picture of Samuel reaching from his mother's womb. Since you have referred to the controversy I would love to have a dialogue with someone trained in Maternal Fetal surgical anesthesia. I respect your comment that an in utero child under anesthesia would not reach out and grab the finger of his surgeon. It has always been my contention that Samuel obviously came out from under the anesthesia too soon. Could you please elaborate what the term, "inadequate surgical field" is? And just how difficult it is to maintain an adequate surgical field on a child in the womb? Samuel was the 64th in Vanderbilt's history to receive this procedure. There was absolutely no mistaking that he reached out on his own. Have you studied the four frame sequence I shot as fast as my camera's motor drive would fire? Click the opening picture at Also do you know who the doctors are in the clip you have posted? I understood that the procedure to correct spina bifida in the womb was an extremely dangerous procedure. Aren't the lives of both mother and child endangered in this procedure. The clip basically shows Dr. Joseph Bruner pulling the extremities of the child out for the camera. Wouldn't this be considered further endangering both lives? Thank you so much. Michael Clancy


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