John Lorber

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John Lorber (1915–1996) was a professor of paediatrics at the University of Sheffield from 1979 until his retirement in 1981. He worked at the Children's Hospital of Sheffield, where he specialized in work on spina bifida. He also wrote on the subject of medical ethics regarding the use of intensive medical intervention for severely handicapped infants.

Medical ethics and neonatal surgical intervention[edit]

In the 1970s, Lorber was one of the early advocates for neonatal surgical intervention in cases of the Myelomeningocele form of spina bifida.[1] Lorber's published work advocating treatments, along with the opposing views of Raymond Duff and A. G. M. Campbell, became important voices in the debate about the ethics of withholding medical care.[2] However, by the mid 1980s, Lorber's position had changed based on the unsatisfactory long term outcomes and instead he supported a treatment of normal nursing, with care to avoid pain and discomfort.[1][3] This position was criticized by pro-life groups.[4]

Is Your Brain Really Necessary?[edit]

In 1980, Roger Lewin published an article in Science, "Is Your Brain Really Necessary?",[5] about Lorber studies on cerebral cortex losses. He reports the case of a Sheffield University student who had a measured IQ of 126 and passed a Mathematics Degree but who had hardly any discernible brain matter at all since his cortex was extremely reduced by hydrocephalus. The article led to the broadcast of a Yorkshire Television documentary of the same title, though it was about a different patient who had normal brain mass distributed strangely in a very large skull.[6]


  1. ^ a b Erminio Peter Volpe (1984). Patient in the Womb. Mercer University Press. p. 61. 
  2. ^ Raymond J. Devettere. Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. Georgetown University Press. 
  3. ^ Lerner, Barron H. (14 June 2005). "Playing God With Birth Defects in the Nursery". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  4. ^ Peter Singer. Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. Macmillan. 
  5. ^ Roger Lewin (12 December 1980). "Is Your Brain Really Necessary?". Science. 210 (4475): 1232–1234. doi:10.1126/science.7434023. PMID 7434023. 
  6. ^ The pressure from the fluid enlarged her skull. Although her brain is thinly spread, it covers her entire braincase, and it is sufficiently thick that she has about 2000cc of brain - it's just very weirdly distributed in an abnormally large cranium. So despite being told all her life that she had only 15% of normal brain mass, the people who told her that hadn't taken the shape of her cranium into account.