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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

MEDICO-LEGAL POINTS                                                 307

divorce suit on the ground that a baby born 360 days after the possible date
of conception was not his child.la

In the Supreme Court, special terms, Queens County, New York, a
husband's petition for divorce for adultery on the basis of his wife's abnor-
mally long pregnancy was dismissed, the finding being that, although 355
days elapsed between coition and parturition, there was medical evidence
that the head of the foetus was engaged for 68 days before delivery.16

3. The Minimum Period of Pregnancy and the Viability of a Child.
In a case of disputed legitimacy, when a child is born within a short time
after marriage, or within a short time of the husband and wife living
together after some years' separation, an important question that is raised
is whether it is possible for a fully developed child to be born before the
termination of the usual period of gestation. This question can be answered
by determining the intra-uterine age of the foetus from its length, weight
and other characteristics, and in most of these cases it will be found that the
foetus is not full term, and yet it is capable of living. The question, there-
fore, resolves itself into another, viz. what is the shortest period of gestation
at which a viable child can be born ?

Children born at 'or after two hundred and ten days or seven calendar
months of uterine life are viable, i.e. are born alive and are capable of being
reared. Hubbard 17 records a case where an infant born at the beginning;
of the seventh month of pregnancy weighed only 15 ounces, and at the age
of six weeks was in good health and weighed 32f ounces. It was fed on
breast milk from a bottle with one feed daily directly from the breast.
Children born after six calendar months or one hundred and eighty days
of uterine life may be viable and capable of continuing an independent life
apart from their mothers. Houlihan 18 reports the case of a primipara, who
was delivered of a premature, living male infant on July 29, 1932, after
6i months of gestation. At birth the infant was 14 inches long and weighed
23J ounces. At the end of 12 weeks it weighed 90J ounces. Fakim19 also
reports a case where a woman, aged 31 years, was delivered of a female
child, weighing 1 Ib. after 26 weeks of pregnancy. After a few days the
child was 13 inches long. An X-ray examination of the child on the 18th
day after birth showed the presence of the ossification centres of the
calcaneus and astragalus. The centres of ossification for the lower epiphysis
of the femur and the upper epiphysis of the tibia had not appeared at that
time. The centre of ossification was present in the lower epiphysis of the
femur on the eighty-first day after birth. Five months and a half after
birth the child weighed 6 Ib. 12 ozs. Cases have also been reported, where
infants born after still shorter periods of intra-uterine life have survived
and grown, up. In the case20 of Clark v. Clark, the President of the
Divorce Court held that a child born after 174 days of intra-uterine life was
able to live and was a legitimate child. At birth the child weighed 2
pounds. In rare cases, children "born in the fifth calendar month or even.
as early as the fourth month may survive for a short time, but they can
never be conceived as having reached the period of viability. Richard
H. Hunter21 describes the case of a foetus of 5 months of intra-uterine life
who lived for 18 hours after birth. It was 30 cm. long and weighed 512
grammes.

15.   Brit. Med. Jour., Dec. 23, 1950, p. 1451.

16.   Jour. Amer. Med. Assoc^ Feb. 1, 1947, Vol. 133, p. 347

17.   Brit Med. Jour., Vol. H, 1928, pp. 878 and 1076.
IS.'   Pracfctwmer, May 1933, T>. 608.

19.   Brit Med. Jour^ Aug. 19, 1950, p. 445,

20.   Lancet, March 11, 1939, p. 593.

21.   Brit Med. Jour., May 27, 1933, p. 919.