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prenatal testing that gets us somewhere

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | Jan 18, 2007

I almost missed this great rebuttal to the call for more Down’s syndrome prenatal-testing. It could only have been written by someone with a Down’s syndrome child, and the point it makes speaks to the complexity of human existence. It’s a paradoxical truth that suffering brings joy; that our best experiences were not planned by us – we don’t really know what happiness is until we look back.

The dignity of the author’s experience, and the formality of the venue in which the piece appeared, doubtless hindered her from exploring all the implications of the issue.

The fact is, prenatal testing will be flawed until all defects, visible and invisible, can be identified. What about issues other than Down’s syndrome that people may not want to face, ones that aren’t so easily targeted with current prenatal techniques? No one really knows who will be stricken with, say, leukemia at a young age, causing untold suffering for the family and burden on our medical system. People are taking a huge risk having any child, when you think about it.

No one has even thought of predicting how a child might inflict moral grief on their family. I would be willing to bet that there is a fair number of parents of serial killers who would gladly have exchanged, with hindsight, the anguish of the evil done by their child for the fate of living with someone retarded.

And what about the crying need for testing for producing a child who will grow up to be an intolerant jerk? Think of how terrible you would feel if your child turned out to be someone who became a judgmental know-it-all, willing to consign to the incinerator any child who doesn’t measure up to his own preconceptions of what constitutes worthiness in offspring, even on the suspicion of Down’s syndrome?

Yes, prenatal testing is a sadly crude instrument that would be better not used until it can be perfected.

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  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - Jan. 19, 2007 5:23 PM ET USA

    A long, long time ago people made the wrong turn when they concluded that they had the right to decide when and how often they would become pregnant. Change the dynamic and return to the idea that God creates human beings and that human beings are privileged to cooperate in that process and people may look upon ANY child as what it is, a gift "on loan" from God.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 19, 2007 3:17 PM ET USA

    Homosexuals are pushing the idea that they are "born that way." Imagine the outcry if someone proposed that the "gay gene" mutation be tested for!

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - Jan. 19, 2007 10:13 AM ET USA

    Sounds like pre-natal testing will lead to another Oliver Wendall Holmes Supreme Court decision/rationale for compulsory sterilization of those with Downs chromozones in their history: "Three generations of idiots is enough." [A Defense used by the Nazi Doctors in their Nuremberg Trials.] Already employers and insurance companies use genetic data to disqualify applicants. WWJD?

  • Posted by: Italiana - Jan. 19, 2007 7:27 AM ET USA

    Whatever happened to "Just say NO!" Doesn't anyone have the moral strength to stand up to doctors anymore?! After all, they are JUST people, not gods, and are OUR EMPLOYEES. WE hire THEM. WE pay THEM. They merely give us their pompous opinions. Sometimes there's a bit of expertise and knowledge mixed in there, rare as that is these days, but it's merely their opinion. For the sake of your child, just stand there and say NO!!! It'll do you good. Try it. NO! No! No. Nononono.

  • Posted by: Leo XIII727 - Jan. 18, 2007 9:17 PM ET USA

    I have a friend whose son has Down's syndrome. The son is now a young adult. His family went to great lengths to "mainstream" him rather than isolating him with other Down's syndrome kids. This young man holds down a job and is a productive member of society. More importantly, he has a sweet disposition and is will liked in the community. His parents deserve a medal for (1) not aborting him, and (2) going out of their way to raise him in a loving family environment.

  • Posted by: rpp - Jan. 18, 2007 6:13 PM ET USA

    Pseudodionysius, believe it or not, I actually know a woman who did the very thing you suggested. The female OB/Gyn response? "I did. In college."

  • Posted by: Sir William - Jan. 18, 2007 5:56 PM ET USA

    Our first comment to all OBGyns & 'genetic screeners'- "We only terminate conversations, not people. Mention 'termination' and the conversation ends." Works every time.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jan. 18, 2007 4:48 PM ET USA

    Any woman told to get prenatal testing and an abortion should turn to her doctor and say: "You first." Physician, heal thyself.

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