It’s tough to know how to react to the two headlines which appeared adjacent on the BBC News website today.
Downs’ Syndrome screening seems to be a technology which has backfired. The well meaning people who developed it thought that people would see the quality of life experienced by those with Downs’ Syndrome vs those without and make the sensible decision.
Turns out that the sensible decision is trumped by the difficultly of taking a hard decision, and people have been shying away from doing the decent thing. When asked why,
- 20% said they had known somebody with Down’s
- 30% cited religious or anti-abortion beliefs
- 30% felt life had improved for people with Down’s
- 20% didn’t believe the result
So that’s 50% of people who are ignoring the medical advances. Let’s have a few facts about Downs Syndrome:
- One in 1,000 babies born in the UK has Down’s syndrome
- People with the syndrome will have some degree of learning difficulty
- Life expectancy is on average between 50 and 60 years old
- Down’s syndrome is not classed as a disease, but does lead to a higher chance of developing a host of illnesses
- Nearly half of those with the syndrome will have heart defects, while hearing and sight problems are also more likely
- There is also a greater risk of dementia, leukaemia and testicular cancer
Whilst people are very adamant to say that they don’t see that they should choose between one life and another, they probably aren’t thinking straight. Given the choice of being born into a body with or without Downs’ Syndrome, you’d have to be a bit weird to choose Down’s Syndrome. You live a shorter, more painful life, more dependent on others for your wellbeing. How can that be good for the individual, the family, or society?