23-week babies more likely to live than die, says top doc

Babies born at 23 weeks, one week before the current abortion limit, are now more likely to live than die, a senior children’s doctor has said.

Pro-life campaigners are calling for the abortion limit to be lowered in light of growing evidence that very premature babies are increasingly surviving.

Dr Martin Ward Platt, a consultant neonatologist, revealed that at his hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne around 60 per cent of babies born at 23 weeks over the past six years have survived.


He also said he had known of two babies that were born at 22 weeks and survived.

Dr Ward Platt said: “The conversations we are having with parents are very different from the ones we were having ten years ago.”

He commented that 23 weeks “is in essence the new 24”.


Doctors are being “more proactive” about trying to save very premature babies, and there have been advances in the way neonatal units are managed, Dr Ward Platt explained.

Mark Bhagwandin, spokesman for the charity Life, commented: “We have long been calling for the abortion limit to be reviewed.

“Most babies born at 24 weeks now survive. That is the abortion limit. There is no reason doctors should be aborting babies at 24 weeks at the same hospital where they are trying to save the lives of babies born at 24 weeks.”


Conservative MP Fiona Bruce has criticised the way hospitals across the country have different policies about whether or not to resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks.

“If a baby is born alive, at however many weeks, every effort should be made to ensure that the baby lives. This should be the consistent approach across the country. Anything else is injustice”, she said.

And Dr Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “If there is a chance a baby can survive without overwhelming and catastrophic injury, then we owe it to each child to give them a chance of life.”


Earlier this year, figures obtained by The Sunday Times showed that the number of babies who survive after being born at 23 weeks is rising.

According to freedom of information requests, at least 120 babies born at 23 weeks have survived in the last four years.

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