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Physiology & Medicine
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Neilep Level Member
17/06/2005 18:03:40 »
First point to make here... I'm a clefty myself (unilateral cleft lip and palate) so obviously I have an angle on all of this. I've also just finished my third year undergrad chemistry exams, have a (slightly manic) extracurricular life based around science outreach activities and an entirely lovely boyfriend. In short, I'd say my quality of life was pretty high relative to the national average!
Given this, eighteen months or so ago I was knocked sideways by a high profile court case here in the UK in which someone was attempting to have some doctors prosecuted for carrying out a late term (third trimester) abortion.
From the press coverage, it appeared that the sole explanation given for the abortion (for late-term abortions  a reason has to be published) was the detection of a cleft palate.
I know that some fairly serious genetic diseases can lead to cleft palate, but if there's reason to suspect that in a particular case I'd have thought it might be sensible from the point of view of the doctors to indicate it in their explanation of the reasons for the procedure.
Clearly, since a decision was made that the doctors had done nothing illegal, there must have been more to it than was immediately obvious... but I was wondering if anyone who knew about this sort of thing could suggest some possible reasons!!
 Although I don't have an issue with abortion early in pregnancy I regard late abortions as really pretty extreme and have trouble with the idea that they can be justified for a condition that isn't going to leave to an inevitable early and painful death for the infant.
Neilep Level Member
The Naked Scientist
Re: Cleft palate
Reply #1 on:
23/06/2005 09:30:48 »
I too read about this case. As you contend the reporting was unclear and thin on the facts (probably because it was in the Daily Mail), making it hard to know exactly what was going on. I'm not certain, but perhaps there were other structural problems going on, and a cleft deformity was also picked up. Since this is something that most people have heard of the media pounced on it straight away ?
For those not in the know, cleft lips and palates are embryological (developmental) anomalies. The face forms when 3 tissue blocks, one above the other, located on each side of the developing head migrate round to the position of the future face and unite with each other in the midline. Sometimes the component that gives rise to the upper lip fails to fuse properly, leaving a gap - the cleft. These fusion failures can be variable and involve just the lip, the lip and hard palate, or the lip, hard and soft palates. They can also be unilateral (just on one side), or bilateral (both sides cleft). They are therefore a spectrum of disorders of variable severity.
Obviously we don't know the severity of the case that Rosy has higlighted, but I can confirm that most simple cleft lesions can be repaired very effectively and with few consequences. The more severe ones may have serious consequences, particularly for feeding because babies can aspirate and develop pneumonia.
"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception"
- Groucho Marx
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx