09 May 2007

To birth, or not to birth...

If there's a more controversial issue for prospective parents than the fallout from in-utero genetic testing, I'd love to hear it.

The last time I raised a similar hot-button topic... the excrement really hit the air-conditioning.

Fool that I am, I've decided to do it again...

-- DETROIT -- Until this year, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

Under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.

About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.
Now, I should mention here, that as parents having a first child in our late thirties, my wife and I opted for amniocentesis... which screens for the most common genetic disorders.

Fortunately, the tests all came back normal and we weren't forced to make that terrible choice.

My personal feeling at the time, was that bringing a disabled child into the world would have been a mistake. Even if you get past the medical, emotional and financial issues... you're still faced, at some point, with the reality that, after you are gone, your child will be left alone in the world and very possibly institutionalised.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way.
Convinced that more couples would choose to continue their pregnancies if they better appreciated what it meant to raise a child with Down syndrome, a growing group of parents is seeking to insert their own positive perspectives into a decision often dominated by daunting medical statistics and doctors who feel obligated to describe the difficulties of life with a disabled child.

They are pressing obstetricians to send them couples who have been given a prenatal diagnosis and inviting prospective parents into their homes to meet their children.
I guess I'm curious where people, particularly people with strong religious convictions, which I should reiterate, I do not have... fall on this issue.


UPDATE: The Pope weighs in
Even before Benedict got off his plane in Brazil, he stoked a debate among Catholics who have been arguing whether politicians who approve abortion legislation as well as doctors and nurses who take part in the procedure subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church doctrine.

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Don said...

It just comes down to how sacred you consider human life to be. And also the fact that we can't ask the fetus with downs syndrome if they'd be happier being dead. I usually sense that most people's decision to abort disabled children is that the effort to raise that child is simply too much for them - a world view that is promulgated through the medical establishment and MSM. It is also a sad reflection on society when parents are left so much to their own devices when it comes to care for mentally or physically challenged children. (But become a drug addict of your own free will and we'll set up a safe injection site for you.)
Aborting the Downs syndrome baby likely also has to do with the "less than perfectness" of an individual with Downs syndrome and how they make many of us uncomfortable. They require some support of others all their life due to their condition, and unless you see something inherently special/sacred in human life, you'd probably think society would be better off without those "burdens". Society is tending strongly towards judging a person's right to exist strictly upon their economic value, and the disabled, terminally ill, etc. don't have the same "economic value" as do the able bodied with full intellectual capacities.

Neo Conservative said...

"Don said... It just comes down to how sacred you consider human life to be."

i guess the other component of that argument is... when an individual considers human life to actually start...

that's, i guess, where the believers shear off from the non-believers.

"It is also a sad reflection on society when parents are left so much to their own devices when it comes to care for mentally or physically challenged children. (But become a drug addict of your own free will and we'll set up a safe injection site for you.)"

ah don... now you've pushed one of my buttons... and i have to concede the validity of this particular point.

i'd also venture that this is the sort of decision that gets harder to make as you get older and i daresay, more introspective.

or maybe that's just me.


langmann said...

On the drug addicts, good point don.

The problem with chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome is that the range of severity can be very broad. As a doctor I have seen people who are so unfortunately effected by their genetics that as an outside observer it is hard to say whether that person has enjoyed or even understood any of his/her confined life. Then there are other people who are mentally handicapped but enjoy life. It is hard work for the parents and I am dubious about the quality of care once the parents are gone.

So once this range is explained to prospective parents and that as a doctor we cannot predict the severity I can see why they elect abortion. On the other hand there are many that don't even want testing and let God or the universe decide for moral reasons.

As a prospective parent this has come up. If the fetus/baby was in the 8th to 13th week I would consider it. Once it gets to 20 weeks its so much like a child on the Ultrasound that unless it was lacking a brain lungs, gut or kidneys I would have a hard time hurting it.

Where I work the doctors who do these late 2nd trimester abortions only do them for the reasons of chromosomal or severe anatomical reasons.

Neo Conservative said...

"langmann said... So once this range is explained to prospective parents"

the quoted statistic of 90 percent choosing abortion under these circumstances, suggests that even some people with religious background are going that way.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't read that in to the stat ..as a 'religious' person, I chose not to go thru with the testing, therefore would not be part of the 'stat'of 90% choosing abortion.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I think I can one-up you on this one, Neo:

UK Clinic to Weed Out Embryos for Cosmetic Defects

Neo Conservative said...

"anon said... I chose not to go thru with the testing"

i didn't overlook that... i just wonder how many "people of faith" are in the 90 percent slice... if i get your gist, you're saying "not a single one".

i guess i find that a little hard to believe.


Neo Conservative said...

"Joanne (True Blue) said... I think I can one-up you on this one"

i'm thinkin' the water starts to boil... it doesn't get any hotter.

i guess the question is... where do you draw the line her and more significantly... who gets to make that decision.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Exactly. If we can dispose of human embryos because we don't like the hair colour, then it isn't a big stretch to imagine this type of thing can and will be done regarding abortions.

Who gets to choose? Seems like the pregnant women at this point.

And I don't see a line getting drawn anywhere at all.

Neo Conservative said...

joanne said... "And I don't see a line getting drawn anywhere at all.

joanne... oh, it's there all right. and people are choosing every day.

it is, in the end, the same person who chooses whether to stay on their side of the white line on the highway... or to smash into oncoming traffic... that has the final say at the moment.

who do you think should get to make this choice for you... the politicians, the pope, the marxist-leninists?

and that's not a rhetorical question.


Anonymous said...

No ,I didn't mean to imply 'not a single one'...I meant that some 'religious' people would choose not to be tested, therefore the 90% is not representative.

Neo Conservative said...

"anon said... therefore the 90% is not representative"

the ninety percent, whoever falls into that group, is a pretty telling statistic.


langmann said...

@ neo-conservative:

The problem with the 90% stat, which I think I alluded to but not clearly, is that many parents opt out of the maternal serum screen, integrated parent screen, before they'd even know if anything is wrong because they wouldn't do anything if there was something wrong based on moral or religious reasons. See what I mean?

Those stats, if they are true, might be the result of the bias of preselecting parents who would do something if there was something wrong with their fetus, hence they have the tests and subsequently abort.

As I said before I understand why parents do select to abort once they find out their fetus has a problem because we cannot always predict the range of severity. In my small experience with this, I wouln'd say it is as high as 90%. Some religious people do choose to abort because they feel that God has already decided that the child was not meant to be especially in the case of severe anatomical defects that would result in sure death. With down syndrome I don't think it is as high as 90% with my experience.

Neo Conservative said...

just wondering, if the people are so willing to accept, despite whatever genetic anomolies, any child that god throws their way... are similarly persuaded on issues like, for instance, chemo...

isn't god the one who's sending you a dose of cancer?

i'm not mocking anyone's beliefs... it's a serious question.


Anonymous said...

Hate to drag this one out but: If 100 people are offered testing and 33 of them have faith in God and only 3 of those 33 choose to go ahead with testing and 90% of the people that have testing have abortions, then 90% is only representative of those tested NOT of the general pop.
I would be interested in figures that define who refuses testing, and why compred to overall # that go ahead with abortion.
I know many people that you would call religious who have refused testing.
There is a peace that passes understanding when people have true faith, and don't depend on the medical world to make life 'perfect'.
I'd love to share more about God...another time.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm without strong religious convictions so this may disqualify me...

But, FWIW, I'd recommend the CVS over the amnio because the CVS can be done as early as 11 weeks instead of waiting for week #16. That's the decision we made three times, and fortunately the results were such that we never had to ask ourselves any harder questions. If one were to be in that position, it would be preferable to make it earlier rather than later, I think.

My two cents.

Neo Conservative said...

in all the confusion, i don't think we should overlook, that even people outside of organised religions really struggle with this decision...

i've met any number of people who professed to be observant... my own father among them... who lived pretty hypocritical, intolerant lives.

just a thought.

we have company this weekend... back later.