Oh, I know. She’s busy counting the days until her sixth baby is born… But what can I do? She’s the one who knows stuff about ethics. I’m just, you know, a know-nothing reactionary right-winger who doesn’t like too many medical interventions in what should be normal life stuff. (Don’t get me wrong: modern medicine is great when you need it; but we don’t need it nearly as often as some people would have us believe.)
Long piece in the Globe and Mail about yet another “simple test” that could, they claim, detect genetic problems with your baby earlier in a pregnancy. It’s too early in the morning (plus Véronique is, last I heard, still pregnant…) to start a “spot-the-euphemism” drinking game, but gosh, what a piece. A few choice samples:
Current methods to collect fetal DNA, such as amniocentesis, involve an intrusion into the uterus that can trigger a miscarriage – a risk that makes many couples refuse the procedure.
(Written as though most normal people – and not, say, reactionary kooks like me – would, of course, never refuse such a procedure… I mean, really, what’s the big deal?)
Yet as with most advances in reproductive medicine, the new technology is raising tricky social questions.
While some see it as a better way to prepare parents and hospitals to care for newborns with special needs, others fear it smacks of eugenics as science makes it ever easier to reject a less-than-perfect baby.
(“tricky social questions”?)
This is a powerful technology,” said Doug Wilson, head of the genetics committee of the Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada.
“If it can be proven to be as accurate [as current diagnostic methods] it will become the new diagnostic gold standard.
“If it can be done at 10 weeks, instead of 16 weeks, it will relieve the stresses of pregnancy early.”
(“relieve the stresses of pregnancy”?)
Dr. Wilson of the obstetrics society noted that even the best current screening methods result in a number of women being told they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome when they are not.
“You could have 10 to 15 women who screen positive, but only one of them will be a true positive,” said Dr. Wilson, also head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Calgary and Foothills Hospital.
(Right. And that would have nothing to do with a pregnant woman’s decision not to have a giant needle stuck into her uterus? or with – what did they call it? – the stresses of pregnancy?)
U.S. statistics suggest that 80 to 95 per cent of women who receive an early prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to end their pregnancies, she noted. In Canada, the number cannot be tracked due to privacy regulations.
Had enough for one morning? Me, too.
Tanya’s mind is reeling: So instead of insisting on more accurate screening methods, science is looking for screening methods which can be performed earlier. And this even though it’s likely about 8 out of 10 abortions performed in the name of “fetal abnormality” end the life of a perfectly healthy child.
Now, I’m opposed to eugenics across the board. But even if you aren’t, isn’t that disgusting?
Do they tell the woman, when she screens positive, that there’s less than a 10% chance her child has Down Syndrome? Where are the “reproductive rights” activists now?
Rebecca adds: Well, two cheers for Canadian medicare, because at US$700 a pop, I can’t see this test being offered, and thus in practice available, here anytime soon.
What’s that about a slippery slope? “But CEO Harry Stylli said the company plans to develop screening tests for a range of other disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and Tay-Sachs disease.” Tay-Sachs causes deterioration from late infancy on, leading to death by age 4 or 5. I can imagine how abortion might seem to be a better choice than bringing a child into the world doomed to a short and painful life. But cystic fibrosis patients often live into their late 20s and 30s, and sickle cell anemia reduces the average life expectancy to the late 40s. Implicit in this testing is that at least some parents will choose abortion over bearing a child with the disease being screened for. What sane argument can be made for aborting a baby who will have a medical condition that can largely be managed, and who with today’s medicine could potentially live half a century, and see his or her grandchildren? Heart disease and hypertension also shave a decade or two off life expectancy; if we could pinpoint the genes for those and screen for them in the womb, would that be a good reason to abort? Where do we stop?by