the fictitious "Hand of Hope" story

The infamous "Hand of Hope" email was forwarded to me (Thu 4/14/2005 3:36 PM):


A picture began circulating in November. It should be "The Picture of the Year," or perhaps, "Picture of the Decade." It won't be. In fact, unless you obtained a copy of the US paper which published it, you probably will never see it. The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by a surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on little Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed, hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. In a Time Europe article highlighting new pregnancy imagery that show the formation of major organs and other significant evidence of the formation of human life but a few days after conception, Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, "Hand of Hope." The text explaining the picture begins, "The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life."

Little Samuel's mother said they "wept for days" when they saw the picture. She said, "The photo reminds us my pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person." Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 per cent successful. Now see the actual picture, and it is awesome - incredible. And hey, pass it on.

The world needs to see this one!

My response was:

I saw this one a few years ago. Snopes has a (partial) debunking. The money quote is:
Some opponents of abortion have claimed that the baby reached through the womb and grabbed the doctor's hand.

Not true, [Dr. Joseph] Bruner says.

Samuel and his mother, Julie, were under anesthesia and could not move.

"The baby did not reach out," Bruner says. "The baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on."

I received a reply (Fri 4/15/2005 2:25 PM):

Frankly, whether it was orchestrated or not doesn't concern me. It's a BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [personal information redacted]....sorry to be so abrasive, but this is an issue about which I feel so strongly......[personal information redacted]

My final response was (Fri 4/15/2005 7:36 PM):

Since the tale was fabricated (or, as you put it, "orchestrated"), then why would it be important for everyone to "READ THE STORY BEFORE LOOKING AT THE PICTURE?"

Without the emotional spin and the faux drama, it's just another operating room photo: of great import to family and friends, but of little interest to the rest of us.

I'm not snarky enough to reprimand you for the overuse of exclamation marks, but I would like to mention the importance of making distinctions between the different stages of human development. It may be politically prudent for those on the Right to call everything from a zygote onward a "baby," but it's not accurate. As others have mentioned, acorns and oak trees are not interchangeable.


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