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    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Real Life: Princeton professor of ethics Peter Singer took his class on a field trip to a neonatology unit where they came face to face with those Singer considers life unworthy of living:

    Singer had brought his students to the ward to show them the living faces of a medical debate featured prominently in his scholarship and his seminar: whether it is ethical to end an infant's life when medical data predict she has a low chance of surviving.

        The students, excited as they entered the hospital, turned somber as they walked through the ward.

    ... "Everyone came in very bouncy and energetic, and I thought, 'Wow, these people have no idea what they're getting into,'" said Jennifer Calise, a young mother cradling her one-year-old daughter, a former ward patient who had come for a checkup. "Now they all look a little shell-shocked."

    ...Calise was forced to confront the viability-of-life issue abruptly in February 2003, when her water broke early and doctors told her the fetus had a low chance of surviving. When Calise gave birth to her first child several days later, the newborn's prognosis was not good.

        "What we call viability is 24 weeks," said Dr. Denise Hassinger, who oversees Calise's care. "[Calise's first baby] came out at 23 weeks. And she could move, she could breathe and everything, but it was 23 weeks. So is it a person, is it not a person? There's a lot of legal and ethical issues involved."

        Calise had instructed the doctors to resuscitate the baby if it showed any chance of survival, but its premature birth, and a severe prenatal infection, suggested little use in trying to keep the baby alive. The baby, named Simone, died after support was withdrawn.

        "[My husband and I] have seen the miracle babies, and everyday we ask ourselves, did we do the right thing?" Calise said.

        Calise gave birth again in September 2003 to a baby named Ava. Though her second baby was also premature at 25 weeks, it was relatively healthy otherwise and doctors started care immediately. Calise proudly showed the class her cheerful, healthy daughter.

        When Hiatt encouraged students to ask Calise questions, they were hesitant. "I could see with the students, everyone was thinking 'Oh my God, is she going to have a nervous breakdown if I say her first child wasn't a person?'" Calise said later.

        After about 30 seconds, the first question came from Faruk Colakoglu '08.

        "Are [underdeveloped babies] children?" he asked.

        "What makes them a child?" Calise replied. "I mean, is it the fact that they breathe, or is there something else that tells you there's a life?"

    The article doesn't say if anyone had an answer to that.


    posted by Sydney on 11/17/2004 07:38:00 AM 0 comments


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