Sunday, March 30, 2008

Down's Syndrome Decreasing in Spain

Rates of children being born with Down Syndrome in Spain are decreasing, not because of any special gene therapy or other medical breakthroughs, but because parents are aborting them before they're born. After I read this news article the other day, it really saddened me. Maybe because I long for a child of my own one day or maybe because I'm getting older and see things differently as an adult, than I did when I was a young, idealistic college student. I just can't imagine a world where Down's Syndrome Children become nearly extinct. I know that having a special needs child is a very difficult thing and I have never walked in the shoes of a parent who has a special needs child so I can't understand what it's really like. I certainly am not someone who has any right to judge another person for making a decision such as this. It's not a choice that I would want to make, and I'm not going to condemn another woman or family for making a different choice.

It's just that in our quest for perfection, what are we giving up?

I grew up with a cousin (probably a second or third cousin) who was either Downs Syndrome or mildly retarded. I don't remember as I was very young, but she was pretty high functioning. She did everything for herself, she babysat one of my older cousins, probably spoke Spanish and English, but may not have known the difference, she didn't go to school as she was nurtured and sheltered while her mother was alive. Mom says after her mom died, she gained a bit of independence. Still there was always someone who took care of her, which I'm sure at times was a bit trying, as she had an energy level most of us don't have. Nonetheless, she was such a joy to be around. She loved playing with the kids. It makes me sad to think about people like my cousin who might not have lived, had their parents made a different choice (of course, it would never have been a choice for her parents.) But what about the other kids I've met and known who are Down Syndrome, who are healthy, happy and bring nothing but joy to their families, what would the world be like without them?

I'm all for science and believe that we need to keep looking and trying to find cures for insidious diseases. I wish there was a cure for MS, Muscular Dystrophy, Diabetes, AIDS, Cancer and everything else that still eludes a cure. I'm not wholly against stem cell research if done ethically and am very leery about how they are acquired. I think it could yield some promising results-- but what is the price to pay?

I wish we could prevent others diseases before babies are born so all children who are wanted will be born healthy, loved and happy. I know that one day we'll reach a point where science might be able to prevent such things-- but will it necessarily be a good thing? All we have to do is look at history to see that sometimes such ideals go wrong. (And just watch SciFi-- you'll see what I mean.)

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