Let's get real: a test that enables doctors to identify birth defects in utero will really only be used for only one purpose: eliminate those with the defects. More than 90 percent of children whose Down Syndrome is detected in utero are aborted. (There's no reason to think that this testing will be limited to Down Syndrome, by the way. Eventually, the cost- effectiveness of eliminating genetically-based illness in utero will prove irresistible. As Nancy Press of the Oregon Health and Science University put it in the New York Times, "If you can terminate pregnancies with a condition, who is going to put research dollars into it?")i'm struck by the suggestion that the decisions made on this issue tend to be driven by what is essentially the selfishness of the parents(-to-be). i don't know that this is necessarily true in general (and i'm sure there are those who think beyond themselves), but i just wonder how widespread and accurate an assessment it really is. the answer is perhaps somewhat scary to contemplate.
In addition, there is subtle but real pressure on "at-risk" women to undergo pre-natal testing. [...]
And what exactly is the "risk" here? Why are we having all those abortions? One thing is certain: it's not to ease the suffering of the "defective" children. They don't suffer, at least not from having Down Syndrome. They're often aware that they're different but any pain they may feel in this respect is caused by other people's reactions to the differences. From my own experience with my autistic son, I can tell you that David's autism troubles me a great deal more than it does him.
The inescapable conclusion is that the suffering we're seeking to avoid is that of the adults. How else do you explain the phenomenon of doctors being sued for the "wrongful birth" of a child with disabilities? Children with Down Syndrome or other disabilities represent an unacceptable impingement on their potential parents' freedom: they have to work harder at being good parents and they don't even get to show off with a "My Child is an Honor Roll Student At ..." bumper sticker.
If that sounds harsh, well, it is. It's also true.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
commenting on a newspaper article whose headline reads "Down Syndrome Now Detectable in First Trimester", regarding a new test which could "pinpoint" many of the fetuses with the "common genetic disorder" that causes Down Syndrome as soon as 11 weeks after conception, a boundless columnist writes: