Death by prenatal screening: how one girl with Down syndrome narrowly escaped
Translated by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
October 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - One month ago a precious girl was born in my hospital with Down Syndrome - a rarity these days, since 90% of these children diagnosed before being born end up in a container of biological waste, something that some people regard as a scientific advance, boasting of their determination and perseverance in filtering people based on their risk of suffering some chromosomal defect.
Hope - let us call her that - is the the child of a young couple. Her mother is no more than twenty years old. Her parents were subjected to the now-routine screening for risk of chromosomal defects implanted in the public health system, with the excuse of giving them peace of mind, the right to information and to decide, of preparing them to care for a sick child, under the rubric of invasive “selective tests.” Hope would be screened by white-robed technocrats. She and her parents had bad luck: the screening test revealed that she was at an elevated risk of Down Syndrome.
The peace of mind that the test had promised disappeared. Again, with the excuse of peace of mind, they were offered an amniocentesis. Bad luck for Hope, who was already 16 weeks old. She would be subjected to a risk that would bring no benefit to her. She would be betrayed as a result of her genetic characteristics.
The parents, possibly uncomprehending, in an ideologically-slanted medical venue in which professionals waver between fear of accusations and the ambition of diagnostic excellence, accepted the proposal. On this occasion fortune smiled upon Hope: the amniocentesis failed after several failed attempts to extract the sample of amniotic fluid in which Hope’s chromosomes would be analyzed.
In their diagnostic enthusiasm, the doctors proposed repeating the amniocentesis the following week, but, providentially, the mother did not arrive for the appointment with an abstract Dr. Mengele.
The doctor’s intention was probably only of carrying out a diagnosis, he would never dare to stain his hands with innocent blood, his involvement would end there, but not without first informing the young woman where and how she could destroy the life of her child. He would only need to issue a “safe conduct” so that the staff could set an appointment in an abortion clinic, and with the excuse provided by his efficient prenatal diagnosis, another doctor would take care of the dirty work.
Fortunately for Hope, in the “magnificent ultra-high resolution sonogram for week 20” and in the succeeding ones, her morphological peculiarities were obscured. And Hope was born, beautiful, very healthy, with the only exception of bearing the mark on her face of the sweet innocence typical of those children who are differentiated by having three chromosome 21s instead of two. In the beginning her very young parents didn’t want her, and repented of not having arrived at the appointment for the second amniocentesis and of not having had an abortion. They decided to give their child in adoption.
A scandal ensued in the hospital. Some doctors accused the parents of cruelty for not wanting their child, for leaving her at the hospital under the care of social services, for giving her in adoption to other parents who were willing to give her affection and to care for her.
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Blessed be God because Hope has found adoptive parents. Those same doctors are the ones who would have been understanding if they had decided to kill Hope so that she would not be born alive, something that they were willing to facilitate with prenatal diagnosis. However, what has saved her life is that the diagnosis was made after her birth.
Thousands of lives around the world would be saved if there weren’t the rush to make a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, if it were postponed until the moment when the protection of the right to life of these children is guaranteed.
Dr. Esteban Rodríguez Martín is a gynecologist and spokesman for the Gynecologists’ Platform for the Right to Life in Spain. The title of the article has been changed from its Spanish original, and the body text was modified slightly for publication in English.