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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This family chose life in more ways than one

From the United Kingdom comes the amazing story of a child whose tragically short life is having a tremendous impact:
Newborn Teddy Houlston, who died 100 minutes after his birth, became Britain's youngest ever organ donor after his kidneys and heart valves were used to save a man's life.
The newborn died on April 22, 2014, but news of his miraculous organ donation only came to light this week.
Houlston's mother, Jess Evans, was 12 weeks pregnant when she learned that one of her unborn twins had a fatal abnormality. The baby was suffering from anencephaly, a serious birth defect which prevents part of the brain and skull from developing.
Teddy's parents refused to abort him and "discussed the possibility of organ donation as the pregnancy continued."

We have written before about abortion in cases where the child is doomed to die, and the reasons that parents decline abortion in such cases—often, despite immense pressure from their own health care providers. We noted that "parents may reject abortion because giving birth to the child allows the family to arrange for organ donation; although the child's life is brief, he or she can leave a tremendous legacy by saving the lives of other newborns."

In February, when I presented at the American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns conference, I had the opportunity to chat with fellow presenter Amy Kuebelbeck, who runs PerinatalHospice.org. I asked her about this and she told me that most parents who reject abortion for babies with lethal diagnoses are not motivated by the possibility of organ donation. This is because, in laymen's terms, the stars have to align for such organ donations to be medically feasible. Typically, she said, that involves placing the newborn on life support so that physicians can move quickly at the moment of death. In Teddy's case, "[d]octors at the University Hospital of Wales performed the surgery to remove his organs three minutes after he died."

But perhaps with greater awareness, more parents will consider the option of organ donation. The Independent reports that an Irish family has made an organ donation plan for their unborn daughter Annie, who also has anencephaly. They have been in touch with Teddy's parents for support.

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