View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Down syndrome and the Culture of Death

Down Syndrome Now Detectable In 1st Trimester
Earlier Diagnosis Allows More Time for Decisions

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 10, 2005; Page A01

A first-trimester screening test can reliably identify fetuses likely to be born with Down syndrome, providing expectant women with that information much earlier in a pregnancy than current testing allows, according to a major study being released today.

The eagerly awaited study of more than 38,000 U.S. women -- the largest ever conducted -- found that the screening method, which combines a blood test with an ultrasound exam, can pinpoint many fetuses with the common genetic disorder 11 weeks after conception. That allows women to decide sooner whether to undergo the riskier follow-up testing needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Screening women before the second trimester allows those who might opt to terminate a pregnancy to make that decision when doctors say an abortion is safer and less traumatic. It also gives those who want to continue the pregnancy more time to prepare emotionally for their child's condition, and provides earlier reassurance to those whose babies are healthy, avoiding weeks of anxiety, Malone and others said.

(For the rest of the article, go to )

I used to be the senior residence manager in a home for people with developmental disabilities – including a number with Down syndrome. They were people just like everyone else – sometimes difficult, sometimes delightful. They had senses of humor, feelings, gifts to offer, so much more.

And, yes, they were sometimes sources of pain for their families. I found it depended in part on the family’s attitude. Some relatives were “ashamed.” But many simply accepted the residents as children, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends.

Not inconvenient people to be disposed of.

I would no more call for the death of my father – a wheelchair-bound, diaper-clad, nose-picking man who is sometimes difficult and embarrassing, but who tells jokes and stories, comforts the other residents of the home where he lives, offers advice to me about fixing my car or the plumbing, and who is, no matter what, my father.

This news saddens me, because this test is certain to lead to more deaths.


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