A baby boy abandoned by doctors to die after a botched abortion was found alive nearly two days later.
By Simon Caldwell
Published: 4:29PM BST 28 Apr 2010
The 22-week infant later died in intensive care at a hospital in the mother’s home town of Rossano in southern Italy.
The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her baby was disabled.
However the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabria hospital, and was left by doctors to die.
He was discovered alive the following day ”“ some 20 hours after the operation ”“ by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.
He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.
The priest raised the alarm and doctors immediately arranged for the infant to be taken to a specialist neonatal unit at a neighbouring hospital where he died on Monday morning.
Italian police are investigating the case for “homicide” because infanticide is illegal in Italy.
The law means that doctors have had an obligation to try to preserve the life of the child once he had survived the abortion.
The Italian government is also considering an inquiry into the conduct of the hospital staff.
The case has reignited controversy on the legality of abortion in the proudly Roman Catholic country.
It could also raise questions in Britain over the legal upper limits for abortion and the viability of the foetus ”“ or its ability to survive outside of the womb.
A spokesman for the ProLife Alliance said: “There cannot be anybody in the world who is not horrified by a story like this nor anybody in the UK who would not support a massive reduction in the upper limit for abortion.”
Most abortions at 22 weeks simply involve the induction of the birth which normally results in the death of a young foetus.
The case is causing uproar in Italy because it is the second involving a foetus of that age surviving the procedure in just three years.
The other involved a baby in Florence who weighed just 17oz when he was aborted at 22 weeks because of a suspected genetic disorder but lived for three days.
Since 1978 abortion has been available on demand in Italy in the first three months of pregnancy but is restricted to specific circumstances ”“ such as disability- in the second trimester. The government is considering a review of the working of the laws.
The case also comes as figures in Britain revealed last week that the number of babies born weighing only 2lbs has more than doubled in just two years.
Yet the proportion of tiny babies born stillborn has nearly halved, the health service statistics have shown.
The figures do not reveal at what stage the babies were born but a child weighing under 2lbs is likely to have been born at least three months early.
They will inevitably include some born alive at an age when they could, in other circumstances, have been aborted.
More than 200,000 abortions are performed each year, most for non-medical reasons within the legal upper limit of 24 weeks gestation.
The increasing number of babies surviving below 24 weeks, partly because of advances in medicine, has led to widespread calls for the legal upper limit to be further reduced.
Attempts to lower the limit failed in Parliament in 2008.
In 2005 a baby boy in Manchester was born alive at 24 weeks after surviving three attempts to abort him. He is now a five-year-old schoolboy.