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January 08, 2007


Look for the Roman Catholic Church to declare the personhood of amniotic fluid.

as usual, i have nothing intelligent to say, so i'll just remark that there is a town in NC called Stem , pop 238.

I don't really understand why the RC church would object. It doesn't interfere with the fetus.

As I understand it, taking amniotic fluid poses a measurable risk of causing an abortion.

Measurable, or significant? That is the question that makes me crazy. Lots of risks are measurable, and lots of lawsuits happen because of that fact. But that doesn't make them significant. :)

To follow up, I understand that the process of sampling amniotic fluid results in an unintended abortion in 1 out of 200 instances. This is what my wife and I were told when we were expecting children and, given my wife's age, were offered the test to determine whether the fetus had a variety congenital abnormalities. Given that the risks of those abnormalities being present were considerably lower than 1 in 200, the decision not to have the test was easy.

I don't know what the Catholic Church thinks of the apparently now routine prenatal sampling of amniotic fluid, but given that its primary purpose is to determine whether to abort the fetus and that it induces abortions itself, I cannot imagine that the Church would look favourably on it.

I also didn't have amnotic fluid samples taken due to the risc.
It seems slightly weird to promote something that might cause an abortion with 20 weeks to save an embryo.

Late in commenting but two things -
1. Very interesting writeup, hilzoy. I've thought for a while that the pressure from moral objection will make for some interesting science.

2. The decision to do an amnio depends on some complicated computations (for my math challenged mind, anyhow). The include such factors as - What is the false positive rate for the alternative tests? Spontaneous abortion risk for those tests? What is the rate of spontaneous abortion at the gestation age? What treatment, if any, are you prepared to carry out if the test is positive for whatever you are looking for? What is the chance the treatment works? Kills the fetus? Will the information help the parents down the road to decide on conceiving another child?

The bottom line is - does the risk outweigh the benefit (of course). For example, if you suspect Down's (from imaging and mother age) but the amnio results won't alter the the course, you'd be crazy to put the fetus at risk.

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