JAMA refuses to retract partisan study that denied fetal pain

By Dave Andrusko

JAMAlogo3Legislation to ban aborting pain-capable unborn children is now the law in 14 states. Why? Because there is overwhelming medical evidence that by 20 weeks (if not earlier), the preborn is capable of experiencing unspeakable agony as she is torn apart.

With those successes in mind, I’d like to take a few minutes to respond to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s response to a call for JAMA to retract a tenacious and wholly misleading 2005 study trotted out to this day as “proof” the unborn cannot experience pain by 20 weeks.

Indeed the study went so far as to say there is no good evidence to be the unborn can feel pain before 29 weeks!

In truth, as NRLC explained in great detail in its rebuttal of this “trumped up ‘study’ on fetal pain,” the study was produced by pro-abortion activists. There was “no new laboratory research reported in the article–it was merely a commentary on a selection of existing medical literature.” Their conclusion “is disputed by experts with far more extensive credentials in pain research than any of the authors.”

Enter Howard Bauchner, MD, the editor in chief of JAMA. He sent a two-page letter, dated June 14, to James D. Agresti of “Just Facts.” It was very polite and very evasive.

For example, he writes that the authors employed qualifiers such as “unlikely” and “probably.” Three responses.

First, read the study and tell me the authors, who included a woman who at the time was the director of the largest abortion clinic in San Francisco, are the least bit hesitant.

Second, since pain perception, to quote Dr. Bauchner quoting the study, “probably does not function before the third trimester, discussions of fetal pain for abortions performed before the end of the second trimester should be non-compulsory.” And even though NRLC pointed out there is “substantial evidence from multiple lines of research that unborn humans can perceive pain during the fifth and sixth months (i.e., by 20 weeks gestational age) and probably earlier,” Bauchner retreats to the same defense: the authors hedged their bets, so take that.

Third, because there is no evidence of “fabrication or falsification” in the study, the study needn’t be retracted, Bauchner writes, ignoring the evidence both before the 2005 study and subsequently that show the study’s conclusions are wrong.

What about questions of “conflict of interest” that had been raised? Bauchner responds that “the information we have indicates the authors complied with the journal [JAMA’s] conflict of interest requirements in 2005.”

But talk about missing the point.

While I cannot speak to JAMA’s “conflict of interest” standards in 2005, wouldn’t you think deep involvement in abortion might be reason to question the authors’ results? As NRLC wrote in 2005, “The so-called ‘study’ was produced by pro-abortion activists and a well-known practitioner of late abortions–but, with a few notable exceptions that readily available information was omitted or greatly minimized by mainstream media outlets that initially covered the story.”

One notable exception, a Knight Ridder reporter, contacted the then editor in chief regarding the ties of two of the researchers. Marie McCullough reported that Catherine D. DeAngelis “said she was unaware of this, and acknowledged it might create an appearance of bias that could hurt the journal’s credibility. ‘This the first I’ve heard about it,’ she said. ‘We ask them to reveal any conflicts of interest. I would have published’ the disclosures if [they] had been made.”

But just a day later DeAngelis told USA Today the affiliations of the two “aren’t relevant” but that they should have been disclosed.

“If she really thought the affiliations were not relevant,” NRLC wrote, “why would she say that they should have been disclosed? If a review of the same issue by doctors employed by pro-life advocacy groups had been submitted or published, would those affiliations have been ignored by journalists?”

All of this and more can be read at www.nrlc.org/uploads/fetalpain/NRLCReponsetoJAMAPain.pdf.

The point is a simple one: JAMA is invested in denying the reality of fetal pain. Dr. Bauchner evasive response demonstrates again how pro-abortion advocates can swallow a camel and strain at a gnat.