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‘A future without Down syndrome?’

January 11th, 2010

Dana Goldstein, an associate editor at the Daily Beast, says improved prenatal testing could well reduce the number of secular, educated families who have children with Down syndrome.

She interviews parents of kids with DS, who say they hope that doesn’t happen. An excerpt:

Rachel Adams [a professor of English and American studies at Columbia University whose son has Down syndrome] describes herself as a pro-choice feminist, a woman who wouldn’t want to deny any other woman the choice of whether to carry a pregnancy to term. But she’s also committed to giving expectant parents a more hopeful view of what it’s like to be a mother of a child with Down syndrome. This spring, she and a friend will be giving talks to genetic counselors about how they can more sensitively deliver the news that a fetus has Down syndrome, without steering couples toward termination.

Adams sees a contradiction in our society’s increasingly friendly bearing toward disabled people and its obsession with developing ever more revealing genetic tests. “Now that I have Henry, I go from such optimism to such extreme worry,” she says. “There are ethicists who ask, ‘At what cost to humanity is the elimination of whole categories of people?’ You’re living with these contradictions-wanting women to have complete reproductive freedom but wishing the choices they had were conveyed to them in a different way.”

8 Responses to “‘A future without Down syndrome?’”

  1. Duff Says:

    I think Laurie is on point here, Tim. What do you mean by “contribute?” When my grandmother became infirm, she still mattered to me. Her smile, her presence in the world, her love for me – all that contributed to the quality of MY life. My daughter, who has Downs, is the light of my life. She contributes every day in many ways. So by “contribute,” do you mean “pay their own way?” If that is the case, then in general, persons with Downs can do this if we only bother to educate them properly. That makes it OUR responsibility. Now, like Mandy says, if you decide that “pay your own way” is your benchmark, then you have monetized human beings. Is that a slippery slope you really want to step on? How much do YOU contribute? Who gets to measure your relative worth? We have too many lawyers. Shall we kill a few off? It is very hard to take an argument like your seriously because even the most cursory consideration of it shows it to be preposterous.

  2. Mandy Says:

    “How much money is spent on people who contribute nothing to society?”

    Wow, a lot!

    However, if you are going to eliminate non-productive people from society, you are going to need a more massive euthanasia program than Hitler could devise.

    Start with prisoners: euthanize them. The unemployed? Illegal immigrants? Substance abusers? Single-mothers who live off welfare? The elderly? The mentally ill? People with chronic diseases?

    A case could certainly be made – by you – for all of them and more.

    Insofar as I’m concerned, one non-productive group that should be first on your list: trolls.

  3. Laurie Says:

    I guess to Tim, if you are a living person with a soul and ideas and feelings, it does not matter. Those things don’t matter? Only if you do something that helps the world at large do you become worth living to him. I happen to think everyone has value. I am enriched by many who Tim does not value. They, to quote Tim, “contribute” to my well-being. Unfortunately, Tim seems only to believe in tangible things. He puts no value on love, happiness, purity. Hopefully, he can change and won’t just be a “clanging cymbal”.

  4. EB Says:

    The standard of the first Tim — that we shouldn’t spend money on people who aren’t contributing to society — logically leads to these consequences: The elderly, particularly if infirm, should be euthanized; and anyone who has a debilitating stroke from which recovery seems unlikely should be euthanized. Although such an approach would go a long way to solving the soaring costs of Medicare, we first need to address our values and ask ourselves what kind of people we are. We also should remember that we are each very likely to be disabled at some point. As Pogo said, we have met the enemy and he is us.

  5. tim Says:

    Tim, with a comment like that I’m hard-pressed to find what a person like you contributes to society, aside from your musing on human cost/worth analysis.

    Sure wish their was a further identifier on this site so I’m not confused with this character.

  6. Scott Says:

    Tim, who gets to measure how much someone “contributes” to society? You?

  7. Joie Winski Says:

    I agree with Rachel Adams and totally disagree with “Tim”. As the grandmother of 12-year-old Elizabeth, a child with Down Syndrome, I can absolutely state that she does contribute to our society as well as many other other-abled adults and children.

    There are several “sheltered workshops” across our country where other abled-adults make products for industry and several businesses who hire people with disabilities to be productive, self confident contributors to our world. They may never be rocket scientists, but the love they give back is worth more than words can say! It’s obvious Tim has not had this experience. How sad.

  8. Tim Says:

    At what cost? The question should be what benefit. How much money is spent on people who contribute nothing to society? People should have some responsibility to the human race and their society as opposed to their own selfish desires.

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