January 14, 2011

What Kinds of Life Are Valuable? - Blood Test for Down Syndrome

There have been articles published periodically over the past year or so about creating a blood test to detect Down syndrome in pregnancy. This is beneficial as it allows parents to get accurate information about their baby-to-be without dealing with the risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis or CVS.

However, such a test brings about ethical questions where our society carries a preconceived bias against any kind of potential "flaw" in a baby and where medical professionals are often not adequately trained to inform mothers on the true implications of what a disability would mean to their child and their own lives. Information given to parents is often outdated, pessimistic, and carry overtones that assume that the parents should and will abort the baby.

Apparently such a test has been created though it is not on the market yet. I find it interesting that Time Magazine has picked up on this and has an article in today's magazine about the topic, bringing mainstream the issue of today's quasi-accepted form of eugenics.

The issue raised by Brian Skotko in the article is whether DS will start to disappear, as 90% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to abort their baby. The article reads:

Skotko worries that doctors won't be able to adequately counsel a pregnant woman about the reality of having a baby with Down syndrome. In 2004, a Special Olympics study found that 81% of medical students reported they get no medical education about people with intellectual disabilities.

“If that's the case and we have a new prenatal test coming around the corner,” he says, “we'll have a greater number of women being faced with a decision about which they don't have accurate and unbiased information.

“Will babies with Down syndrome slowly disappear, then babies with trisomy 18 and trisomy 13?” asks Skotko. “As a clinician, I raise it as an open question. It's a question of which forms of life are valuable.”

Read more by clicking HERE. For more on today's questions of eugenics, read Customized Kids: Parents Abort Twin Boys in Quest for Daughter


  1. Thank you for posting this today, Meredith. I was just reading this article online http://tinyurl.com/699xsmm this a.m. It popped up in my Google alert for DS this morning.

    Proper education, or lack thereof for medical practitioners is a HUGE issue. Given the presence of the DS Clinic at Emory and some connections we have at Emory School of Medicine, perhaps we can help change that in our local community.

  2. Yes, it won't do to be too far off average... not to bright, not to dull... don't be unique or you won't have value...

    I follow you regularly... having known several DS people in my life. One was kept home in the 1950s when it was almost unheard of to do so. She lived a full life, and just died a few years ago. She was a lovely person.

  3. Thanks for sharing the article. I had heard 90% percent of babies with DS are aborted, but wasn't sure of the source. I am glad to see it in print so I can refer to it.