Friday, July 21, 2006

New Pro-Life Ally?

There is an article at Psychiatry Weekly entitled"The Psychiatric Scars of Childhood Trauma." There is no accompanying photo online, but on the poster for display at hospitals there is a picture of a cute blond boy with a tear running down one cheek.

What we would ordinarily call childhood trauma is not mentioned in the article. It is a discussion of several studies which show a higher incidence of psychiatric illness, especially schizophrenia, in people who were exposed prenatally to their mothers' stress hormones in times of war and other danger.

Is this just a marketing point, where "childhood" is used in the title instead of "prenatal" because the pictures will be cuter, or because "childhood trauma" grabs the eye? Probably. I certainly don't think it is the result of any sudden switch in the medical profession away from regarding an unborn child as mere fetal tissue. I doubt that the philosophical issue was thought through very clearly by anyone involved.

I think there is a natural retroactivity of personhood in the eyes of people who work with children, or who work with people in a setting where previous childhood experience is potentially important. This assignment of personhood does not operate projecting forward from a first trimester tomato, uh, foetus, but for those already deemed persons, that status is intuitively projected backward before birth. I don't think psychiatrists, psychologists, psych nurses, or social workers (certainly not social workers) have this worked out in any systematic way, most of them. It just seems to be the natural way of looking at things, at least to the limited group I encounter live or in print.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

or anyone 'pro choice' for that matter. but you're right in that the cognitive dissonance is particularly poignant among health professionals.

Embryology was my favorite class. And after that I really wonder how someone can come out and tell me a third trimester mass of tissue is not the same thing as a baby.