In the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) of 18 Feb 2013 there is a very good reflection on the declaration by German Doctors – issued from Nuremberg in May 2012 – apologising for the crimes committed by their predecessors.
On the following day, 19 Feb 2013, there was an article in Australian Doctor heralding the development of a blood gene test for pregnant women to detect if their child suffers from Down syndrome thus obviating the need for a risky invasive amniocentesis and it is 99% accurate.
One can almost read the headline "medical advance enables Down syndrome prevention".
It will be hotly denied by those offering the test that Down syndrome people (yes, people) should be prevented from living. They will respond by saying that some parents will want to know so they can prepare for such an occurrence and that will be true in a very small percentage of people, however it is my experience that most parents who have made a decision not to abort their child when an abnormality is present prefer not to have the test and get very upset if a test is done without their consent.
OK, but it's not that simple anyway.
Already in Australia some 90-95% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted and some abortions will take place unnecessarily because of our imperfect tests. So, it will be argued, this test will make the diagnosis more certain and therefore it is a good thing.
Why do expectant parents have the test and why do doctors seem to encourage the test? Well first of all the parents-to-be usually have the test so they can abort the pregnancy. This why we are already aborting 90-95% - it's already a very high "success" rate. Why doctors? Well, certainly the risk of getting sued if they don't offer and at least suggest that the test should be done.
But there's more. There is already the pressure on pregnant women being labelled "genetic outlaws" if they refuse the test and especially if they refuse an abortion when the test for the genetic abnormality is positive for Down syndrome. Melinda Tankard-Reist has written about these women in her book Defiant Birth. The pressure to abort is insidious by at least some of the medical profession and by the public in general "of course you should abort".
And there's more. Already the threat has been raised that parents who refuse abortion may be sued by their child – or those who may then assume "responsibility" for that child – to sue their parents for "wrongful birth".
So on the one hand we uphold the rights of people with disability and on the other hand some of us are saying they shouldn't have been born, that they are not worthy of life.
And such include this happy, highly educable, delightful group of people who have a different genetic makeup and who we recognise as having Down syndrome.
And so, as reported in the Australian Doctor article, a Sydney specialist has said we are potentially looking at Down syndrome genocide – not prevention by curing the genes, but by elimination.
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