A Duty to Kill?

This fall various groups, including the National Institutes of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control, are rallying behind the radical ideas that people with Down syndrome are valuable and deserve to live. Radical? Apparently. Thanks to new genetic testing capabilities, prospective parents are aborting those unborn children merely suspected of having three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the usual two at a staggering rate of 90 percent.

Washington Post columnist Patricia Bauer thinks that’s a tragedy:

We cherish our friends and family members and think their unexpected extra chromosome is not the most important thing about them. And we worry that the relentlessness of genetic testing is amplifying stigma and bias against the 350,000 flesh-and-blood Americans who have the condition, as well as people who have other conditions that are now or soon will be prenatally discoverable.

In recent conversations with obstetricians and gynecologists, I’ve found that we family members aren’t the only ones with these fears. Physicians say they’re disturbed by mounting demands from prospective parents for nothing less than the “perfect” child, and by lawyers who troll for lawsuits against doctors who have the misfortune to deliver nonstandard babies. Not long ago, a Florida jury awarded a couple more than $21 million when their doctor failed to detect an obscure genetic condition prenatally.

Doctors are left to practice defensive medicine, ordering expensive tests and drowning patients in mind-numbing data, while parents labor under the misapprehension that they have a duty to terminate if the tests so dictate.

Bauer, who has an adult daughter with Down syndrome, has an information-packed website on disability-related issues. May such voices multiply in a society that increasingly looks at the less-than-physically perfect as not worthy of life.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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