- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — The editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday said she will publish in an upcoming edition criticism of an article that said unborn babies likely do not feel pain until they are almost 28 weeks old.

Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, JAMA editor, said she also will give the article’s five authors, two of whom have pro-choice affiliations, a chance to respond. But she stood by her decision to publish it.

“There’s nothing wrong with this article,” Dr. DeAngelis said yesterday. “This is not original research. This is a review article” based on data in dozens of medical articles by other researchers.

Critics said the article in Wednesday’s JAMA was a politically motivated attack on proposed federal legislation that would require doctors to provide information regarding pain in unborn babies to women seeking abortions when unborn babies are at least 20 weeks old, and to offer women anesthesia for unborn babies at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of states have enacted similar measures.

Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a researcher of pain in unborn babies at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, questioned the veracity of the article, and the National Right to Life Committee in Washington called it tarnished with bias.

One of the five authors of the article is a University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) obstetrician who works at an abortion clinic, and a second author — a UCSF medical student and lawyer — worked for several months at the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Dr. DeAngelis said the obstetrician’s experience is not a conflict because performing abortions is often part of that job. She said she would have published the medical student’s NARAL connection as a potential conflict of interest had she known about it in advance, but that not mentioning it does not mean that the article or journal is biased.

“If there weren’t four other authors and this wasn’t a peer-reviewed journal, I’d worry … but I don’t,” she said.

Dr. Mark Rosen, the review’s senior author, is an anesthesiologist and pioneer of surgery on unborn babies at UCSF who said the article is an objective review of medical literature. He said Tuesday that while brain structures involved in feeling pain begin forming much earlier, they likely do not function until the pregnancy’s final stages — at about seven months.

Dr. Philip Darney, an obstetrics-gynecology professor at UCSF, said the review article represents “thoughtful and thorough scholarship. No conflicts of interest were present in conducting this work, and no affiliations nor clinical-practice information were withheld inappropriately.”

Dr. DeAngelis, a Eucharistic minister in the Roman Catholic church, says she has received dozens of angry e-mails from abortion opponents, and that she had to take a walk around the block after receiving dozens of “horrible, vindictive” messages.

“One woman said she would pray for my soul,” Dr. DeAngelis said. “I could use all the prayers I can get.” Dr. DeAngelis said she is a staunch Roman Catholic and strongly opposes abortion, though she also supports a woman’s right to choose.

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