I was going to say in response to this article that if we stopped using euphemisms, then this mother wouldn’t be forced to field terrible, offensive questions. Her son has Downs Syndrome, and other parents apparently have the audacity to ask: Why didn’t you get prenatal testing? Which is the same as asking Why didn’t you abort the fetus? Which is the same as asking Why didn’t you kill your child?
Now most of us feel that’s not the way we want our culture to go, but not, apparently everyone. Check the Globe’s comment section. The discussion quickly becomes one of the burden Downs children place on all of us, and how they would be better off dead. We all would be really, because the cost of treating them and educating them is high.
So this mother (and parents of children of varying abilities everywhere) need all the support they can get. Because she’ll be fielding the “why didn’t you kill your child?” question for some time to come.
(Filed under our “eugenics” category.)
Patricia adds: My daughter is five years old and I still get the “did you know she had DS” question. It’s especially disheartening when it comes from a medical professional; I always wonder if what they’re really asking me is whether I want her treated or would I prefer that she go quietly into that good night?
The comments section of the Globe piece was similarly disheartening. Even assuming that people with Down Syndrome impose a higher cost on the public purse, I always thought that, as a society, we were supposed to care for the “weak”. Isn’t “helping widows and orphans” the irrebuttable argument in favour of taxation? Isn’t that what the public purse is for? I realize I have a vested interest in this point of view, but wouldn’t you rather your tax money go to speech therapy or a special education teacher for a child with Down Syndrome or autism than to any number of half-baked government schemes that it is routinely poured into by the bucketful?
But I’m not even prepared to concede “high cost to society” argument. My law school education was heavily subsidized and I’m not sure exactly what obvious benefit to society that provided. I suspect the same could be said of many other highly subsidized higher educations. My daughter won’t be draining the public purse for that purpose. She won’t be seeking a massive bail-out of her automobile company. Nor will she be seeking billions of dollars for wind-power development.
She is however highly functional and industrious, even at five. (You should see her scrub floors.) Everyone who meets her, loves her. (Admittedly, she’s five; not many five year olds aren’t likeable.) She turns the rough and tumble little boys in her class into gentle caregivers – when she’s not playing dragon with them. She says “hi” to the old man having coffee by himself at the next table at the local cafe. I’m guessing she brings some joy to the cashier at our local No Frills because that cashier always makes a point of coming over to talk to her. I don’t know what she’ll end up doing, but I suspect her net contribution to society will be far greater than that of most people so niggardly in their view of life that it would even occur to them to ask how she came to see the light of day.
Véronique adds: Patricia, your post about the public purse and the potential of people with DS reminded me of a newspaper ad I cut out to show my bioethics students. It showed a boy with Down Syndrome and the caption was (paraphrasing): “He will probably never be Prime Minister or cure cancer. But neither will you.”by