Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived. Previously, physicians used cesarean sections to save the fetus from a pregnant woman who had already died during childbirth. Bennett successfully performed a cesarean section, a procedure used worldwide in the twenty-first century when a vaginal delivery is not possible or would pose a risk to the woman or fetus.
In December 2011, the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, or SCRN, published the article “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors of the article investigate the causes of stillbirth and possible reasons for the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in stillbirth rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, stillbirth is the death of a fetus at twenty or more weeks during pregnancy. “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” explores the common causes of stillbirth in different racial and ethnic groups, and provides a framework for future research into medical interventions to help reduce racial and ethnic stillbirth disparity.
In April 1994, Elizabeth Raymond, Sven Cnattingius, and John Kiely published “Effects of Maternal Age, Parity, and Smoking on the Risk of Stillbirth” in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, now known as BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The article examines how advanced maternal age, defined as delivery at thirty-five years old or older, cigarette smoking, and nulliparity, or the state of never having given birth, can negatively impact pregnancy. At the time of publication, according to Raymond and colleagues, stillbirths comprised over half of all perinatal, or close to birth, deaths and more than one-third of total fetal and infant deaths in Europe and North America. In the article, Raymond and her coauthors demonstrate how certain risk factors may increase the risk of stillbirth at different stages of pregnancy, which helped set a foundation for future research in interventions to prevent stillbirth.
Michael R. Harrison worked as a pediatric surgeon in the US throughout the late-twentieth century and performed many fetal surgeries, including one of the first successful surgeries on a fetus in utero, or while it is still in its gestational carrier’s body, also called open fetal surgery. A fetus is an organism developing inside of the uterus that is anywhere from eight weeks old to birth. Harrison hypothesized that open fetal surgery could correct developmental defects that may become fatal to the fetus at birth. After years of research, Harrison and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, in San Francisco, California, performed surgery on the fetus of a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy to correct the fetus’s developmental defects. The surgery was successful, as the fetus developed into a healthy child. Harrison’s work led to advancements in fetal treatment techniques, such as a method to conduct open fetal surgery that will not harm the fetus or pregnant woman, as well as the establishment of one of the first fetal treatment centers in the US.
Misericordia et Misera (Mercy with Misery) was a letter written by Pope Francis and published in Rome, Italy, on 20 November 2016. Through the letter, Pope Francis gives priests the ability to grant forgiveness for abortion. Before Pope Francis’s letter, priests had some ability to grant forgiveness for the Catholic sin of abortion, but bishops had to grant that ability to the priests individually. Prior to the letter, the official rules of the Catholic Church did not state that priests could forgive abortion-related sins. The extension provided in the letter did not change the status of abortion as a grave sin that could result in excommunication. By extending that ability to priests, Pope Francis made forgiveness through the Catholic Church more accessible for women, doctors, and those who take part in an abortion, which started a discussion about the status of abortion in the Catholic Church in the twenty-first century.
In September 2003, Robert L. Goldenberg and Cortney Thompson published the article “The Infectious Origins of Stillbirth” in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the article, the authors conducted a literature review of articles from the US National Library of Medicine database to review the relationship between perinatal infections, which are infections around the time of birth, and the occurrence of stillbirth. Stillbirth is the death of a fetus in the uterus after at least twenty weeks of pregnancy. Infectious disease can cause or increase the risk of stillbirth in several ways, by causing illness in the pregnant person, damaging the placenta, or directly infecting the fetus. Infectious agents can be viruses, bacteria, or protozoa. Rates of infectious disease and stillbirth are both higher in developing than in developed countries, and the authors state that stillbirth due to infectious disease is also higher. “The Infectious Origins of Stillbirth” provides a comprehensive review of the information available on how infections can lead to stillbirth, providing a foundation for further research.
Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories was a 1980 California case that established the doctrine of market share liability for personal injury cases. For such liability, when a drug causes personal injury and the manufacturer of the drug cannot be identified, each producer is responsible for paying the settlement in proportion to the percentage of the market they supplied. Judith Sindell and Maureen Rogers brought the case against the producers of diethylstilbestrol (DES), which their mothers had taken during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage and other complications. Sindell and Rogers alleged that their mothers' ingestions of DES during pregnancy later caused Sindell and Rogers to develop cancers at the onset of puberty, but they could not identify the specific manufacturer of the drug. The market share liability ruling in Sindell allowed millions of DES-affected individuals to seek restitution for reproductive cancers caused by prenatal exposure to DES.