Saturday, 6 October 2012

Conservative Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt

It didn't take him long to impose his twisted, uninformed views.

Jeremy Hunt - a known homeopathy supporter - became the Minister for Health and has recently voiced his personal opinion about how the time limit by which a woman can choose to have an abortion.

This post is not intended to persuade as to whether abortion is a viable option. My personal opinion is that it is, but that's not the purpose of this. My concern is that the people in charge of Health in the UK - the very Health Minister - would like to see a reduction in the time limit from the current 24 weeks to 12.


If there was scientific evidence for his position then naturally, he'd have to be taken seriously, and indeed, I expect that's why he mentioned the pseudo-scientific statement: "Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is".

He's hoping that peppering his comments with scientific language, his skewed view carries more weight.   On the face of it, his comments are a commendable position.

However, remembering that Mr Hunt is a staunch advocate for homeopathy (a ridiculous 'alternative medicine' which has either never been proven to work, or been proven not to work), let's have a little look at the latest evidence available.

Echoing his conservative party colleague (the Women's Minister, Maria Miller), the suggestion is that 'recent scientific advances' mean that more babies born before that 24 week limit are able to survive.

However, according to a British Medical Journal report published on 9 April 2012:

"The proportion of babies surviving to discharge increased significantly over time in those born at 24 and 25 weeks (p<0.01) but failed to achieve statistical significance for those at 23 weeks (p=0.08). No babies born at 22 weeks survived. The babies born at 22–25 weeks accounted for 26.3% of all ventilation and 21.5% of CPAP given."

So.   No babies survived at 22 weeks (or earlier).  None.

Of those very premature babies who survive, around 70% are severely disabled.

According to the latest statement (May 2008) on Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - the scientific body most able to comment on such matters and the body responsible for setting UK clinical guidelines : "It has been widely reported that the EPICure 2 study (currently waiting to be published) will show that the survival rate of premature babies has increased at 24 weeks and above but there are insignificant improvements at 23 weeks or below."

(Full report here: ) 

RCOG continue to recommend keeping the limit at 24 weeks: not reducing it to 20 and certainly not 12 as recommended by Hunt. If you'd prefer, how about this, the latest joint statement from the British Medical Association, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, the Royal College of Nursing and - of course - the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: 

It is shocking, truly shocking that such a man with such out of touch views is the Minister for Health.

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