April 13, 2000
volume 11, no. 74
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Coroner Calls for Rights of Premature to be Respected

    DARWIN, AUSTRALIA, APR 12 ( An aborted baby survived 80 minutes while the hospital staff waited for her to die, according to testimony at a coroner's court in Darwin, Australia, yesterday. The abortionist had induced labor in the mother to remove the 21-22-week-old aborted fetus. However, the nurse-midwife found herself delivering a live child.

    Greg Cavanaugh, the coroner, said that there was a "responsibility vacuum" when "Baby J" was unexpectedly born alive, leaving the nurse with a moral dilemma. The nurse, Carrie Williams, said that she called the Royal Darwin Hospital Obstetrics and Gynecology Department Director Dr. Kai Man Henry Cho to report the live birth. The doctor reportedly responded, "So?"

    The Coroner said that no instructions were left for the nurses for such an event. In the end, Williams did everything she could: she wrapped the baby in a blanket and waited for her to die. Babies born before 22 weeks seldom survive, and almost always require artificial assistance to breathe properly. Even without this minimal care, "Baby J" lived more than an hour.

    The coroner ruled the cause of death to be premature delivery. He said deaths after such live births, even if the gestational age made survival impossible, should be reported to the coroner and the public had the right to be informed and take part in any debate. The deceased should not be described as 'fetus', an 'aborted fetus', a 'non-viable fetus' or anything that diminished her status as a human being. Neither should the purpose of the induction procedure be allowed to diminish her status as a human being.

    "The deceased having been born alive deserved all the dignity, respect and value that our society places on human life," Mr Cavanagh said. "The fact that her birth was unexpected and not the desired outcome of the [abortion] should not result in her and babies like her being perceived as anything less than a complete human being."

    Australian Right to Life Chairwoman Margaret Tigue said that she hoped the story of this baby's short life would "serve to remind others that unborn babies are people too and are as deserving of their rights to life as are all others." ZE00041220


April 13, 2000
volume 11, no. 74

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