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The Fetus Becomes a Patient

JAMA. 1966;198(1):A43-A44. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110140019006.
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It boasts neither journal nor specialty society. But the word is beginning to be heard in corridor conversations and seen in professional articles. And a few months ago a major medical society devoted a panel discussion to this fervid new concept in medicine—"fetology."

Although fetology may never become a subspecialty, one funding agency, the National Institute of Child Health and Development, recently counted 137 projects concerned with the fetus.

Many of the investigators are attempting to prove a long-frustrated medical concept which forms fetology's cornerstone: the fetus is a treatable patient.

Only one recognized clinical procedure now supports this belief. Intrauterine transfusion was first performed successfully on an erythroblastotic 32-week-old fetus in 1963. The procedure was performed by A. W. Liley, MB, PhD, and colleagues at National Women's Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dozens of US centers now are performing the intricate transfusion of packed red cells through the maternal


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