ANOTHER VIEW: A duty to choose unselfishly

Share
Related Topics
Dominic Lawson has reacted powerfully to the disappointment of the birth of a daughter with Down's syndrome. He has published his determination to give her unconditional love and support, his joy in her existence and his anger at those who imply it would have been better if his wife "had had the test" that would have diagnosed the condition long before the child was a sentient foetus (his own term) and then aborted.

As a long-time supporter of the Down's Syndrome Association dedicated to caring for families affected by Down's, I applaud his first two sentiments. His is a positive attitude which will ensure that his daughter gets the best possible care and life opportunities.

However, I cannot applaud Mr Lawson's castigation of those doctors and midwives who suggest to newly pregnant women that they have tests to identify abnormalities, then encourage and support them while they have abortions, if they so choose, if the tests are positive. Mr Lawson and his wife had every right to refuse that choice, and it is one I would defend vehemently - even though the Lawsons, of course, will not be paying the full price of their choice.

The hard facts are that it is costly in terms of human effort, compassion, energy, and finite resources such as money, to care for individuals with handicaps (and to hell with political correctness; there is more to these dilemmas than mere "learning difficulties").

Other children of the families pay the price of less attention and support for themselves and later responsibility for their siblings when their parents are no longer able to care for the weaker child themselves - and we all share that burden. All over the UK, there are people with various handicaps struggling to cope with state-supported institutional life after living with devoted parents until those parents were too old to cope or were dead. People who are not yet parents should ask themselves if they have the right to inflict such burdens on others, however willing they are themselves to take their share of the burden in the beginning. The right to choose implies the duty to choose as unselfishly as possible, surely?

Yes, of course there is the possibility that Mr Lawson's baby daughter will be one of the fortunate ones who is only mildly affected by her chromosomal abnormalities. She may be able to live a comparatively normal life, but there are many who are profoundly damaged, and it is surely perfectly moral to wish to avoid the misery of such people and the misery of their families, if it can be done.

This is not to say that those who are glad there are tests and abortions available are searching for "perfect children". We are not. We know there is no such thing. But we do seek to prevent pain where we can. I fear that in attacking testing, Mr Lawson is trying to assuage his own pain by ignoring that of others.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Art & Design Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Assistant Management Accountant -S/West London - £30k - £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager required, S...

Bookkeeper -South West London - £25k - £30k

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Why are we so afraid of vaginas?

Victoria Richards
Fifi Geldof (left) with her sister Pixie at an event in 2013  

Like Fifi Geldof, I know how important it is to speak about depression

Rachael Lloyd
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering