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New, Safer Test For Down Syndrome Sparks Ethical Concerns

BOSTON — Some Boston-area doctors are concerned that a new prenatal test for Down syndrome will lead to a rise in abortions. The test became available this week in 20 U.S. cities, including Boston.

Dr. Brian Skotko, of the Down syndrome program at Children’s Hospital Boston, said the test is expected to become popular among expectant parents because it’s non-invasive, and therefore poses no risk of miscarriage.

“The open question becomes, as women — more women — learn about the diagnosis prenatally, will more women choose to terminate their pregnancy, and will (we) slowly start to see, therefore, babies with Down syndrome disappear?”

Skotko said he’s done studies on what it means for families to have a child with Down syndrome.

“These statistics suggest that many, if not the majority, of families who have a member with Down syndrome find a lot of positive and even rewarding aspects to having someone with that condition,” Skotko said. “And I think it’s this sort of information that might be shocking, if not surprising, to many Americans, because this information might be counter to some of the misperception that might exist within our societal norms.”

Skotko said he hopes that this kind of information will be provided to parents who choose to screen for Down syndrome during pregnancy.

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  • Agalvin9584

    This article is duplicitous at best. Why aren’t these doctors happy that Down’s syndrome can now be detected more easily and less invasively? Most of the current babies with this syndrome are already being aborted; approximately 90%. Wouldn’t it be better if detection was easier and eliminated the risk of miscarriage of a fetus that did not have Down’s? Women, and only women, should be making this choice; not doctors who are ‘concerned’ about a rise in the rate of abortions. It’s not their pregnancy, not their baby and not their choice to make for someone else.

    • Anonymous

      I agree — From what I hear, Brian Skotko is a very rare holder of this opinion, but saying “ethical concerns” leads to a lot of attention…I imagine the vast, vast majority of women and doctors hold your opinion: the earlier and easier the test, the better…

      • JP

        Where is the phrase “ethical concerns” mentioned in this article?

        I think the few people who have commented on this article are missing the point.  The issue is not abortion – the issue is societal views of Down’s syndrome.

        • Agalvin9584

          It’s in the title, JP: “New, Safer Test For Down Syndrome Sparks Ethical Concerns.”

          • JP

            Oh, duh, thank you.  I thought this person was referring to something in the text of the story.

      • lpk1965

        No, you are mistaken. Dr. Skotko is not a rare holder of this opinion–there are hundreds of thousands of people in this world that would prove you wrong!   As far as the ethical issue goes, where do you draw the line?  If you could detect diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, etc. in a prenatal test, would you terminate just because the baby isn’t perfect or will suffer from medical issues in their lives?  What if you could determine that a child will grow up to be a drug addict or cause their parents heartache as a teenager?  Terminate then? 

        • Agalvin9584

          A false equivalence lpk1965. All the diseases you mentioned are common in middle aged people and, generally, they are related to diet, not genetics. There is no comparison between those and Down syndrome.

          • Anonymous

            Also, the question of whether an earlier or easier test might lead to more abortions is speculative. Already, the vast majority of women who test and get a positive result do terminate. What we do know is that for a woman who is decided upon a termination if the fetus has Down Syndrome, an earlier termination is much better than a later one.

    • lpk1965

      The problem is that women are not given balanced, unbiased information about Down syndrome by their doctors in many circumstances.  The doctor’s are influencing many of these parents to terminate their babies, telling them this will be a burden that they cannot handle.  It is not a tragedy to have a child with Down syndrome and if you knew one, you would understand.  The people with Down syndrome that I know are the most content people that I know…can you say that about most that you know?  Their families and siblings are much better people for having a person with Down syndrome in their lives.  I agree that it is their baby, but they also need to know the potential that this baby can be with clear information.

  • Andrew Turner

    It seems that Dr. Skotko is mostly concerned with losing out on the positive and even rewarding aspects of having his job.

  • Fergie97

    Not at all impressed or surprised by the ignorant male-driven commentary that has followed. Women have the right to receive adequate, current, & complete information regarding their unborn children. It is a sad & unfortunate society that strives for a population they are comfortable with, one that lacks the grace & benefits of diversity & a broad interpretation of desirability. Is this proof that compassion isn’t as profitable?

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