They fixed my boo-boo.
October 8, 2003 12:39 PM   Subscribe

They fixed my boo-boo. (warning - graphic pix)
Did you ever see this picture? It makes the email forwarding rounds ever so often, and is a fixture in the pro-life community. Taken in 1999, it shows a tiny hand touching the finger of one of the doctors involved in a spina bifida corrective operation. At the time, the fetus was 21 weeks old. Late last month, Samuel Armas (the boy the fetus became) testified briefly before a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee examining scientific and medical advances in prenatal surgery. [more inside]
posted by Irontom (22 comments total)
Unfortunately, the only links I can find about this story are on sites with a very pronounced slant: WorldNetDaily and the National Reveiw and Focus on the Family. I hate having to link to all these hardcore sites in order to put this post together, because this is not an abortion post. I just thought that it was neat to know that, so far, the kid is doing okay. I get down on the world a lot, but I like stories that highlight the successes of our golden age of technology. He may or may not suffer from the effects of his disease as he grows older, but it's neat that we can even attempt to solve problems like his.

p.s. - it was amazingly difficult to write the FPP in language that doesn't endorse one side or the other of the abortion debate. Just read the photographer's account of the event and compare it to Dr. Joseph P. Bruner's account.
posted by Irontom at 12:41 PM on October 8, 2003

Snopes did an interview with the doc. He stated the arm kinda just flopped and the pic was just a lucky and well timed snap.
posted by Nauip at 12:43 PM on October 8, 2003

Yeah, you just hate to link to those sorts of sites.
posted by xmutex at 12:45 PM on October 8, 2003

xmutex - you don't know me, so ease off on the insinuations of lying, will you?

As I said, it's an amazing story of medical technology, outside of the whole "is the fetus a person or not?" donneybrook that I am avoiding. I looked, and could not find any major media coverage of the testimony he and his parents gave. I would have preferred to linked to that and ignored all the pro-lifers.

If you can provide a source beyond mine, do it. I'll ask Matt to modify the post.
posted by Irontom at 12:57 PM on October 8, 2003

I have seen a video of this procedure. Last night, at my dealer's home. I believe it was on Discovery Health.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:59 PM on October 8, 2003

Who's Donney Brook and why do you avoid him?
posted by Outlawyr at 1:03 PM on October 8, 2003

the boy the fetus became

I think that would make a great username. Sorta like "the fire you left me", only edgier. Yes?
posted by dhoyt at 1:07 PM on October 8, 2003

xmutex: I went back through Irontoms posting history, comment history, and personal website. I could find only evenhanded and non-partisan statements. Do you have some other information as to Irontoms motives? If you do, perhaps metatalk would be a better forum rather than further derailing this thread.
posted by jester69 at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2003

I saw that operation last night too.. well parts of it. After seeing the doctor remove the Uterus, I couldn't watch anymore. It's pretty that doctors can do that sort of thing though.
posted by Akuinnen at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2003

Assuming you're serious, here's the donnybrook 411. Sorry I spelled it wrong the first time.

Also, metatalk for those who are interested.
posted by Irontom at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2003

It's amazing what surgeons can do... It took a while before I realized that is her entire urterus outside of her stomach.. Yikes!

I can't understand how that image can be used as pro-life propaganda anyway.. It's not like abortion is legal at 21 weeks. I think the limit goes somewhere around 10 weeks.
(unless real serious medical emergency that might kill the mother, in the UK and spain 24 week abortions are legal in such cases - since you can feel a baby kick at 2o odd weeks, it's not something any mom-to-be would do on a whim).

dhoyt - hehehe, yes.
posted by dabitch at 1:27 PM on October 8, 2003

urterus? I blame the spellcheck. Naturally I meant uterus.
posted by dabitch at 1:28 PM on October 8, 2003

I've been searching to find a different source of information to back up the sites you link to Irontom and I'm not finding anything. I hit the Thomas search to see if I could quickly find any legislation which would tie into the surgery. There are 127 pieces of legislation in front of the Senate committee your sources mention. Nothing obvious there. There are 242 to the Senate's health committee. Unless it buried in there or in one of the 47 bills which mention "abortion", I'm not finding anything obvious.

Could this be made up?
posted by onhazier at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2003

Yep, and chance configurations of mold on refrigerators confirm that there is a God.

Sheesh. Can I ask how a 3-year old was able to testify, meaningfully, in front of a Senate subcommittee? I laughed my ass off reading that the entirety of his "testimony" was "Baby Samuel" and "They fixed my boo-boo." Yep, that clinches it - the discussion is over. Do you think that, maybe, he was shown the picture beforehand and told "that's when the doctor fixed your boo-boo, baby Samuel?"

What I find interesting is that, while Dr. James Thorpe was asked to testify, Dr. Bruner (the person who actually performed the operation) was not asked (or, if he was, was excluded from every article written on the subject other than the Snopes interview.) The article on the Family Research Council web page is well-worded - it never mentions the name of the doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Bruner, but after describing the procedure (and referring to Dr. Bruner simply as "the doctor"), it then slides in Dr. James Thorpe's name afterwards. In short, the article would imply that Dr. Thorpe, to a casual reader, performed the operation and is therefore qualified to testify to the Senate subcommittee.

This, combined with the Snopes interview, leads me to believe that the Senate subcommittee just got a dog and pony show handed to them by the right and told to accept it as the truth. (Restating the obvious, I realize, but it's probably necessary in today's America.)

What I find most curious is that, outside of the "religious rag" news articles discussing this travesty, there is little or no information on Dr. James Thorpe. In fact, I only found one actual link that sheds some light on the possible identity of this doctor, a reference to a "James Thorpe, M.D." in Sacred Heart Hospital, Pensacola, FL.

If it's indeed the same person, is it a good idea to have a doctor from a Catholic hospital testify as your expert on an issue hotly contested by the religious right, while ignoring the doctor who actually performed the surgery?
posted by FormlessOne at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2003

A child does not develop the mental or physical capacity to purposefully reach out and grab an object until about three to four months of age. Knowing that, it's no surprise that the photograph captured nothing more than the surgeon's finger coming into contact with the infant's exposed hand. Attempts to propogandize it are, at best, misinformed.

But I also have to wonder why some of you (FormlessOne in particular) are so indignant about the kid's testimony. The hearing was about advances in in utero surgery, not abortion. The fact that spina bifida can be treated in the womb is pretty damn impressive. I don't think there's much disagreement on that point, from the right or the left.

And onhazier, Senator Brownback has a press release discussing the hearing.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:11 PM on October 8, 2003

Outlawyr, I lived in the original "Donnybrook" (in Ireland) for three years and while now it's a very placid, well-heeled area of urban parks and up-scale townhouses, way back when it was the site of some cattle fairs that could get rowdy as time wore on and attendees got high on alcohol and ether. Hence the name for any confused gathering of volatile people.
posted by meehawl at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2003

... the Senate subcommittee just got a dog and pony show handed to them by the right and told to accept it as the truth.

Most of the Congressional hearings held are dog and pony shows put together by legislators looking to push their agenda. I had the joy of sitting through a human cloning hearing that featured a guy who claimed he was abducted by UFOs. It's rare that a Congressional hearing actually yields some useful information.
posted by marcusb at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2003

If it's indeed the same person, is it a good idea to have a doctor from a Catholic hospital testify as your expert on an issue hotly contested by the religious right, while ignoring the doctor who actually performed the surgery

It 's a teaching hospital. I had two children there. Top of the line joint, I tell ya. Not a bad place to find an expert. (they also have an excellent neonatal intensive care unit.)
posted by konolia at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2003

It's not like abortion is legal at 21 weeks

Maybe in the UK... in the US it is legal anytime as far as federal guidelines go. States can impose additional restrictions, subject to court review.


In Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy. Only after the fetus is viable, capable of sustained survival outside the woman's body with or without artificial aid, may the states ban abortion altogether. Abortions necessary to preserve the woman's life or health must still be allowed, however, even after fetal viability.

(See This link)


On the original subject, this is pretty cool. I don't understand why some people think being able to perform surgery/correct problems in fetuses and also being able to have abortions should be somehow mutually exclusive. I guess it depends on one's rationale for these things.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:51 PM on October 8, 2003

I'm so glad I can find such intelligent discourse on the topic of abortion at MeFi. On second thought, maybe it's best if MeFi readers just continue to shade their eyes from pictures of "fetuses." It's too inconvenient that they look like "real" babies. Gotta protect momma's right to choose the removal of that inconvenient tissue from her womb -- at any cost, including the truth (fair and balanced, reading from left to right: |
posted by tbc at 11:34 PM on October 8, 2003

Looking at *any* medical photo is usually a stomach churner, whether it's a picture of a nasty melanoma or an aborted phoetus. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff have jobs that involve seeing this kind of thing on a daily basis, we are not so enured to it.
I am not really settled in my opinion of abortion, however appealing to morality and disgust are not ways to sway me.
I would be inclined to listen to womens' opinions of this, as ultimately they are the people who have to deal with the immediate physical reality of the proceedure. Medical scientists may also have important information on this subject.
The physical and emotional effects of abortion are enough to deal with. Adding social stigma and exclusion to that is not going to help anyone.
Also, what wildcrdj said.
posted by asok at 4:34 AM on October 9, 2003

There hasn't been any real discussion about abortion and whether it's right or wrong, TBC, only your attempted derailment.
This isn't a debate on the morality of abortion thread. Take your moral high ground elsewhere. The subject matter here has turned to dog 'n pony shows for the benefit of our congress & senate, or the original subject matter the miracle the doctors performed in an amazing surgery on a 21 week old fetus.
posted by Nauip at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2003

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