In 1999 a report was published about a boy (Samuel Armas) that grasped his surgeon’s hand from a hole in his mother’s uterus during open fetal surgery for spina bifida.

The story became an internet hit and in september 2011 the story became hyped again due to a controversy because it was used by opponents of abortion who asserted that the baby reached through the womb and grabbed the doctor’s hand, thus showing signs of life at the 21st week of pregnancy.

A hand of hope… or just a (primitive) reflex?

Doctors have reported that it is not unusual for babies in this position to reach out to the world, and during a spina bifida surgery both the mother and the fetus are under anesthesia – which implicates that both can not move.

The truth is that any grasping ‘hand of hope’ in likewise conditions can best be described as nothing but a simple primitive reflex (a.k.a. a palmar reflex), which are automatic reflex actions of the body originating in the central nervous system. This implicates that such apparent ‘reflexes’ should not get confused with conscious behavior.

What you might want to know about:
Primitive reflexes of the hand!