Why are the heads of newborn and unborn babies so large and out of proportion to the whole body? S.T., Windsor

We can see that different systems of the body develop at different rates and different stages, e.g. at puberty. So too with the unborn baby.

The head contains the brain, which develops earlier, faster and more dramatically than all the body systems.  By the time a baby is born, the organization of the brain cells is virtually complete.  This rapid development ad organization is essential because the brain is the major determinant in how the early embryo develops.  In one sense the brain is the control centre for developments in the pre-born child, and the circulatory system is the communication system carrying information to and from the various organs of the baby’s body.

Do you think the deaths at the Christopher Robin Home for Children were infanticide?

This question has bee asked by a least a dozen people, and not all of them pro-life.  In reply I have said

The evidence at the inquest is incomplete;

The media are the only sources of information (and experience with the media teaches caution);

A non-medical person is handicapped in weighing the evidence (and the sane is true of the jury).  Without all the facts one is not in a position to judge.

Simply said: I don’t know.

That being said, however, such evidence as has been heard at the inquest is obviously making many people, and not just pro-lifers, uneasy.  The deaths of 15 children at the Christopher Robin Home for Children (a centre for developmentally-handicapped in Ajax, near Toronto) are under investigation.  The panel of three doctors who have looked into the medical records have raised many questions, e.g. about the usually large doses of morphine (seven to fourteen times the normal) given to the children; whether morphine was even necessary or appropriate; and why DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders were given without the parents’ knowledge or consent.  We have read that at least one mother has been denied access to her child’s medical record for the inquest, and that People First of Ontario (an advocacy group for the developmentally and mentally disabled), which received standing o the first day of the inquest, has been denied access to medical records, and limited in its questions.

The unease has increases with the information that there is to be a second inquest of another 15 children’s deaths at Brentwood Residential Development Centre.

I know that each of us began as one cell.  How many cells does an adult have?  How many of those cells does a baby have at birth?  C.S., Mississauga

Sir William Liley stated that a full grown adult has thirty million, million cells.  (He put it that way because an English and Australian billion is different from a U.S. billion).

A full-term baby has 90 per cent of the cells at birth.

I am confused. I thought that ‘placenta’ was just another name for the umbilical cord. What is the placenta?  Is it part of the mother?  J.B., North York.

Comfort yourself!  A famous lawyer once was just as confused – and in court.

The placenta and the umbilical cord are two distinct organs. Both are formed entirely in the developing embryo, and both belong to the baby.  Before a woman is pregnant there is no placenta, and once the baby is born the placenta is expelled as the afterbirth.

The cord and the placenta are distinct, but they are connected.  The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta, and the placenta in turn is attached to the uterus of the mother.

The term ‘placenta’ comes from the Greek word meaning a flat cake.  The placenta is, in fact, an oval-shaped, spongy structure, and one of its functions, among others, is that of an exchange organ for the baby.  Oxygen from the blood of the mother goes from the placenta by way of the cord to the baby, and carbon dioxide returns by the same route and is carried away in the mother’s blood.  In the same way, nutrition (fat, protein and carbohydrates) goes from the mother to her baby, and waste products from the baby go into the mother’s circulation and are excreted through her kidneys.

The placenta has a myriad of other functions.