Letter: Dilemma of screening for Down's syndrome

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Sir: I hope that I am not alone in feeling disquiet at the apparent tenor of the recent research into testing for Down's syndrome at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London ('New method of screening cuts Down's baby risk', 14 August). Any advance in medical science that provides more knowledge for prospective parents at reduced risk must be applauded. But the emphasis of the report would appear to indicate that the detection of Down's syndrome in a foetus is a good thing because it will lead to termination of the pregnancy: 'the avoidance of handicap and of distress to the families concerned' and a considerable financial saving in caring for a handicapped person.

Surely, the question of termination or not is much more open and a matter for informed consent taken by the parents involved in line with their own conscience and moral/religious beliefs? People with Down's syndrome can and do enjoy full and productive lives and bring enormous joy to their friends and to those who care for them and for whom they care.

This society believes that informed consent means information should be provided to prospective parents on the quality of life of those affected by disabilities, not just on the disability itself or on the apparent cost of caring.

Yours sincerely,


Chairman, Scottish Society for

the Mentally Handicapped