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On Pain, Research and Children

Interview With Neonatologist Carlo Bellieni

ROME, SEPT. 8, 2006 (Zenit) - A study of blood samples carried out on children aged 7 to 12 concluded that television has an anaesthetizing effect on children.

The research on 69 youngsters, led by professor Carlo Bellieni of the Department of Neonatology of the University Hospital Enterprise of Siena, and published by the British Medical Journal, demonstrated that in cases where television was used as a distraction, the sense of pain diminished significantly.

"It is worrying that television can be so absorbing to the point of not even feeling pain," Bellieni said in an interview with us.

From his studies Bellieni has deduced that, in the case of premature babies and those in their first month of life, certain physiological stimuli, such as massaging and speaking to the child, or putting sugar in his mouth, have an analgesic effect.

According to the neonatologist, the use of television might be functional to induce anesthetizing reactions in the face of pain, but it is very important that "the patient have the parents' support."

Q: Why is this research into pain important?

Bellieni: This research stems from the consideration that, to all effects, the child is a person. There is no level of the development of the human being that cannot be considered a level of person and, therefore, not have the right to be treated and cared for well.

Attention to the patient-person generates enormous stimuli in scientific progress. Instead, to consider the newborn or child as non-person generates a blockage of any development of the research.

Suffice it to think of the idea and proposals of euthanasia that are given as an answer to suffering. This nihilist focus leads to a blockage of research studies on pain, a blockage of research on the child's survival.

Instead, whoever holds a charitable position, and does not give up in the face of life's challenges, has seen that a child can be treated in a way that 10, 20 years ago was not even imaginable, and that we can take great steps forward in relieving the pain of newborns and children.

Q: Why are there so few doctors in the world who study the pain of newborns?

Bellieni: Indeed, there are very few, perhaps because there isn't an appropriate repercussion, but especially because it is easier to consider a child as a non-person.

The newborn especially cries often; therefore, it is difficult to recognize the pain; he cannot express himself and, unfortunately, it is easy to cause him pain without understanding the consequences.

If a dentist carried out a painful operation without anesthesia he would be reported. The carrying out of painful operations on newborns without anesthesia still happens in many cases.

There are philosophers who, by denying that the fetus feels pain, even go so far as to deny that children feel pain in their first year of life. These philosophers who have published articles in important journals hold that the child, not yet having self-consciousness, does not feel pain until he is 12 months old.

These are very dangerous affirmations because to deny pain means to be able to do anything to one who is still incapable of expressing himself.

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Keywords

Children, Family, Bellieni, TV

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