Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Is prenatal testing good or evil?

Excellent discussion of the pros and cons of new scientific advances in pre-natal testing from Dr Denise Hunnell on Zenit. She admits the benefits to knowing what birth defects an unborn baby has, but warns against misuse of this information by the government.Its not whether you have information that is troublesome, its what is done once the information is obtained. Dr Hunnell explains how the Nazis used the information they had about birth defects. One shudders at the prospect of what they would do if our technology were available to them.
Seeking to rid a population of genetic disease through controlling reproduction is not a new endeavor. On July 14, 1933, Germany enacted the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring. Any man or woman who was afflicted with “feeblemindedness,” schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, genetic blindness, genetic deafness, severe physical deformity or chronic alcoholism were brought before hereditary health courts. The courts then mandated these individuals be sterilized. By 1935 the law was amended so the patients had no avenue for appeal and there were fines for physicians who failed to report patients who met the criteria for sterilization. This law was followed by the creation of Information Centers for Genetic and Racial Hygiene to identify potential targets for sterilization. By 1945, 400,000 Germans had been forcibly sterilized. It was this expanding quest to create the “master race” that precipitated so many of the atrocities of the Holocaust.
I am grateful to Dr Hunnell for pointing out the progression from making prenatal testing available to making it mandatory, to requiring that 'unacceptable' babies be aborted. We have to be sure our society does not repeat the tragic history of the holocaust.
 That is what we who love our children with Down syndrome fear, not the helpful knowledge which comes via non-invasive tests like MaterniT21, but the subtle and not-so-subtle coercion to abort their babies which so many mothers have experienced from their health professionals.

When the government health program funds pre-natal testing, it is with the goal of saving the cost of raising a child with Down syndrome.
The French geneticist who discovered trisomy 21, the cause of Down syndrome, Dr Jerome Lejeune said,
“People say, ‘The price of genetic diseases is high. If these individuals could be eliminated early on, the savings would be enormous!’ It cannot be denied that the price of these diseases is high—in suffering for the individual and in burdens for society. No to mention what parents suffer! But we can assign a value to that price: it is precisely what society must pay to be fully human.”

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