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Doctors Could Soon Cure Down's Syndrome -- But Should They?
July 19, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Doctors Could Soon Cure Down's Syndrome -- But Should They?

by Adriana Velez

babies downs syndromeWhat if doctors could "cure" Down's syndrome? It's a possibility that's just on the horizon. Imagine that you go in for a prenatal test and find out that your unborn baby will have Down's syndrome. Your OBGYN performs a procedure, maybe before birth, or maybe after, and presto -- no Down's syndrome after all. Your doctor could actually turn off Down's syndrome. What do you think?

Down's syndrome is caused by an extra copy of Chromosome 21. Researchers are working on manipulating genes to silence that extra chromosome and thus prevent the symptoms of Down's syndrome from appearing. This is something researchers are doing now and that doctors may be able to do in the future ... but should we?

This reminds me of that controversial bus ad suggesting we "wipe out autism." Are conditions like autism and Down's syndrome really something we want to wipe out -- or are they differences we should embrace? If we can stop people from having the symptoms of Down's syndrome, what other conditions will we start trying to erase?

Talk to any parent of a child with Down's syndrome and they will tell you about their struggles. I'm not saying it's a picnic for anyone. But they will also tell you about the joy that comes from sharing your life with a child with Down's syndrome. It's not a curse. It's much more complicated than that. There are particular things we learn and experience for having people who are different among us. They bring value to our world. 

I understand why researchers would want to prevent medical conditions and illnesses that make our lives difficult. But sometimes I have to wonder -- do we really need to change people with Down's syndrome, autism, etc., or do we need to change how we see them?

Do you think it's a good idea to try to "cure" Down's syndrome?


  • Anonymous 1
    by Anonymous 1
    July 19, 2013 at 9:24 AM
    Why nor cure it. Why would anyone what a child to have it.
  • jobseeker
    July 19, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Big issue at stake.  On one hand as you mentioned these children often bring more joy to the families than the 'extra work' they require.  They are considered some of God's special angels.

    On the other hand:

    -How many children are aborted when the parents find out that they may have Downs?  How many lives might htis procedure save?  

    -One of the worries that parents of special needs children have is what will happen to their children after the parents die.  These children don't usually outlive their parents, but one never knows.  If you take that worry away the chances of being able to give your children a normal functioning life and lifespan is a big consideration.

    -While many adults with special needs can live independently the world does not always treat them so great.  There are never any guarantees when you bring a child home, but most parents want the best for their children.

    In the end, we will never 'wipe out' children with special needs, but giving them a chance for a normal life is a good thing.

  • Bmat
    by Bmat
    July 19, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Considering the complicated living situations when they reach adulthood, I'd say cure it.

  • unspecified42
    July 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM
    I would want to prevent it personally, yes.
  • Bmat
    by Bmat
    July 19, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    But I do realize that the argument can be stretched beyond what I consider reason,  What about left- handedness, for example-  but in this case, even though left- handedness is less frequent than right-handedness, there is no disabling effect causing problems with living on their own. Yes?

  • justahousewife
    July 19, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    I think anything you can do to make sure a child grows up to have a full and productive life is a good thing. Also, not to get on anyone's bad side but that could be one less child/adult on disability and adding to society as a whole. 

  • Anonymous 2
    by Anonymous 2
    July 19, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    What are the side effects to this procedure?  There are always side effects.

  • Anonymous 3
    by Anonymous 3
    July 19, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    My niece is 18 years old and was born with Down's Syndrome. She was also born with a hole in her heart, reynaud's, and quite a few other physical issues that go along with Down's. After her two year vaccinations, she went from saying a few words and interacting with people to not being able to speak, hear, she has lost vision in one eye. They have since diagnosed her with autism also. She functions at the level of an 18 month old with the strength of an 18 year old. She has always been at home. Her parents and siblings love her dearly the way she is.........but would love to hear her speak, to have her able to interact with others, be able to bring her places without her having meltdowns. My sister has gotten up many nights to find her naked with feces smeared all over her walls, bed, rug. Not every child with Down's is all smiles and cuddles, able to function in society. Just like autism, Down's has a huge spectrum. I have worked with severely disabled, non verbal children with Down's and just potty training them is a HUGE accomplishment. I have also worked with children with Down's that could almost beat me in checkers, carry on long conversations, and get a job when they get older.

    Yes, they teach you a lot about life. Everyone loves their child, regardless of their abilities, but they are not all like Corky from Life Goes On. It would be wonderful if there could be a cure. If you had the choice between struggling a lot or perhaps a little, what would you choose?

  • Lissetteg
    July 19, 2013 at 2:07 PM


  • GwenMB
    by GwenMB
    July 19, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    No, I don't think we should be messing with our genes or chromosomes like that. For one, we don't know the unintended consequences that may arise. I think we need to change how we see Down syndrome etc people. I also think we are "playing God" when we try to do this.

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