Written by: Doctors For Life International
Article source: Doctors For Life International  

UCT senior lecturer in human anatomy and embryology, Dr Christopher Warton will testify at the hearing of Dr De Vos, who was charged for advising a mother that her unborn child is a human life. The hearing is set down for 28 – 30 October 2019 at the Southern Sun Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town.

Click here to read about the protesters in Nairobi who stood with Dr Jacques de Vos, serving 19000+ signatures to the South African High Commission in Nairobi.  

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Dr Warton’s expert summary, which was served on the HPCSA, is below:

DR JH DE VOS 
EXPERT SUMMARY OF DR CHRISTOPHER WARTON

TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE
1. I am a qualified medical practitioner having qualified in 1975 and have been registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa since 1978 Registration number MP0203882. I have taught anatomy, embryology and neuroscience to the medical students and students of the Allied Health Professions at the University of Cape Town since 1980. 

2. I have written two manuals for the teaching of Embryology which have been used extensively by undergraduate medical students at UCT in recent years.

3. The information relating to embryonic and fetal development relevant to this case has been very well established for many years and is not a matter of the latest research. 

4. The main question posed to me to address in this opinion is whether it is reasonable for a health practitioner, in the light of her/his undergraduate education in embryology, to regard a fetus as human life when seeking to comply with “doing good, doing no harm” to a patient. 

EVIDENCE TO BE LEAD:

5. TIMING OF THE BEGINNING OF LIFE

5.1 Biologically the life of an independent human organism begins at the time of fertilization (conception). At this time its genetic code is set and as a consequence its future physical characteristics are defined with precision. Thus if one were able to read its DNA at this time one could predict its adult form as accurately as one might by examining it’s adult identical twin if indeed it had one. 

5.2 The physical differences between such individuals are the result of differing environmental experiences. Clearly the organism will develop enormously over the subsequent months and years but there is no event during development which fundamentally changes it from a non-human organism to a human organism. 

5.3 Various times or events of development have been used to attempt to define the initiation of human personhood for various practical reasons but the life of the organism is one seamless continuous process.

6. THE NATURE OF A 19 WEEK FETUS

6.1 There is no specific event which defines the developing fetus as being at 19 weeks. Its heart has started to beat by 24 days of embryonic development (3 ½ weeks). Early brain development is present by 5 weeks, fingers at 7 weeks, toes at 8 weeks, early fetal movements from between 9 and 12 weeks and so on. These fetal movements may be felt by some women in their first pregnancy at 18th – 20th weeks of gestation which equates to 16-18 weeks of development of the fetus. 

6.2 Different organ systems develop at different rates, partially related to when they will be needed. Thus the heart develops early as the embryo needs a circulatory system very early but lungs will only be needed after birth and so develop later.
Brain function will, of course, continue to develop for perhaps two or more decades after birth. The 19-week fetus is obviously not cognitively advanced – certainly less than a newborn, but structurally he/she has a fully human form and obvious human appearance and her/his movements are already being felt by his/her mother. 

6.3 We may debate philosophically or legally her/his status but it is entirely reasonable for a person seeing such a fetus to regard him/her as a small human being. In my experience that is a normal response to seeing such a fetus. 

7. In the light of the above in my opinion it is entirely rational and reasonable for a medical practitioner to view a 19 week old fetus as human life to whom she must do good and do no harm. In my experience as a medical practitioner and teacher that is a normal response to seeing such a fetus. This would for example explain why a medical practitioner would carefully consider the effects of any medication she prescribes for the mother, on the fetus.

8. SHOULD A WOMAN BE INFORMED OF THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPEARANCE OF HER FETUS WHEN BEING COUNSELLED PRIOR TO A PROPOSED ABORTION.

8.1 It is usual when obtaining informed consent from a patient to tell them all relevant information so they can make a proper decision. It is unethical to hide from them relevant information. 

8.2 If a woman has an abortion and later discovers that the fetus was more developed than she realized she could legitimately complain that her consent was not informed. It is thus entirely reasonable for a health practitioner to seek to inform such a patient of the nature of the fetus whose life is to be terminated.

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Date published: 03/10/2019

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2 COMMENTS

  1. For too long the public has been made to believe that abortion is a woman’s choice, and that there are no consequences to having an abortion, the public even believe the lie that the baby is not yet human and that it makes abortion okay.
    There are thousands of Biology and embryology textbooks, modern DNA studies, Medical Dictionaries, Science professors and medical researchers that all confirm that Life Begins at Fertilization and to argue against the science is to simply ignore the evidence.

    • You are absolutely right. Unfortunately, this issue has far more to do with opposing Christian values than it has to do with science. Those with an anti-Christian world view are quick to appeal to science when arguing against faith but try to bury or totally ignore science when it comes to moral issues such as abortion. They appear to be blind to the lack of logic and the hypocrisy of their arguments.

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