It’s an extraordinary, and unspoken, understanding in paediatric care that babies just don’t feel pain. This amazing premise has been uncovered yet again in several studies.
In one, doctors said that children were not good at reporting pain, although it’s a mystery why this should give them carte blanche to inflict it. Little is known about pain experienced by a newborn, for instance, when he is vaccinated.
One study group noted that 151 premature babies endured 14 painful procedures every day without any painkillers. Overall, 26 of 31 standard treatments would be painful, they estimate, and yet nearly 40 per cent of all children in the unit never received any analgesics.
Perhaps we need to start producing a badge for all paediatricians to wear: Babies are human too.
(Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 290: 2464-9 and 2419-27; Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 2003; 157: 1058-64).