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

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?


Image via Paul Adkins/Flickr

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