Medicine: Little Mother

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Into the hospital at Pisco, Peru last month came a tired, ragged Indian woman from the foothills of the Andes. She led by the hand a shy little girl, scarcely three feet tall, with chestnut braids and an enormously bulging abdomen. Pointing to the frightened child, the Indian woman begged Surgeon Geraldo Lozada to exorcise the evil spirits which had taken possession of her. Certain that little Lina Medina had an abdominal tumor, Dr. Lozada examined her, received the surprise of his life when he discovered she was eight months pregnant.

Ten days ago in Lima's maternity hospital, surrounded by an audience of 35 Peruvian doctors, Surgeon Lozada performed a Caesarean section on 70-lb. Lina, brought forth a lusty, six-pound baby boy. But bewildered Lina would have nothing to do with her child, could not comprehend that he belonged to her. Silent and uncommunicative, she lay on her hospital bed fondling a shiny, new doll, fingering with reverence a holy picture pinned on her pillow.

Lina's mother, swearing that she did not know the father of her grandchild, produced a village birth certificate indicating an age of four years and eight months for Lina. When the child was eight months old, said Mrs. Medina, she showed signs of sexual maturity, began to menstruate. But skeptical Lima doctors took pictures of Lina's teeth and bones, concluded that she was nearer six than five, for her milk teeth had begun to fall out. Her pelvic bones, although small, were adult in shape, and she was, said Dr. Hipólito Larrabure of Lima enthusiastically, "a miniature woman." He cordially invited "some U. S. foundation to send an investigator to Lima" to observe the youngest mother in the world.

Last week members of the American Medical Association, meeting in Missouri, were even more skeptical of Lina Medina's extreme youth. Most of the members believed that Lina was at least eight or nine, little younger than several U. S. child mothers now living in the South. Baby teeth, said the critical U. S. doctors, are no criterion of age. Lina's early menstruation, said U. S. pediatricians, was probably caused by an ovarian tumor. Ovarian tumors are not rare, sometimes cause menstruation in children a year old, often produce glandular changes which stunt growth. Concluded A.M.A. spokesman Dr. Morris Fishbein: "It is difficult or impossible to determine the exact age of children born in primitive tribes. . . . It is likely that she was much older."