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When does a fetus become a person?

Robert A. Fink, M. D. rafink at ibm.net
Wed Feb 19 10:25:01 EST 1997

kspencer at s.psych.uiuc.edu (Kevin Spencer) wrote:

>Daniel Pouzzner <douzzer.mit.edu> writes:

>>Neurobiologically, a fetus becomes a person at about 9 months
>>post-natal, or 18 months after conception.  This is because the need
>>for the woman to be capable of efficient locomotion precludes
>>enlargement of the cervix to a large enough diameter to permit
>>complete maturation of the child's brain in the uterus; among
>>placental mammals this species-wide premature birth situation is
>>unique, I believe.

>This is not correct.  Neurobiologically, the human brain doesn't
>finish maturation until the late teens.  Frontal cortex is the last
>part of the brain to "mature".  And as others have pointed out in
>this thread, humans are certainly not the only animals whose offspring
>are not "mature" at birth.

>Kevin Spencer
>Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory and Beckman Institute
>University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
>kspencer at p300.cpl.uiuc.edu

This debate is interesting.  We have already used the EEG as a
definition of "death" in the brain death statutes; if there is no EEG
activity, then there is brain death.  If we stay consistent, we should
consider that a fetal EEG can be measured at about 8 weeks, and thus,
the fetus is "brain alive" at that point.  Since the fetus is
unmistakably human, the "conclusion" could be that abortion after 8
weeks is homicide.



Robert A. Fink, M. D., FACS  Professional Corporation
Diplomate, American Board of Neurological Surgery
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