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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nonmember avatar mel

There's a lot to this. What happens when... they figure out how to turn the gene off... and we have people running around creating babies with more of this gene ? What happens to generations of this and how does it affect our dna ? Because it will. It will and we won't fully know its too late. Like many of the toxic things we've done that are biting our asses now. I do think that it would help a lot of children be in less pain and have a higher quality of life. But I doubt it would be forced on families so they could choose.

nonmember avatar Dawn

There are so many other complications that are exacerbated by having Down's Syndrome. Would I want to protect my child from that? The answer is yes. There are so many variances of Down's that you don't know if your child will be functioning or non-functioning. There is a young man who I have know since he was a baby. He is now 21 years old. He has Down's and he has brought me so much joy, but as his parents get older, they worry what will happen to him if they die before he does. Who will take care of him etc. Those are the things that make me say yes to eradicating gene mutations like Down's.

B1Bomber B1Bomber

Down's Syndrome causes chronic physical health problems, including cardiac issues and early death. If we can cure it, we should. The fact that people who suffer from this condition are generally cheerful and positive influences should not stop us from fixing the mutation.

nonmember avatar NoWay

It's a hard call ... if you could take away the challenges without taking away the personalities, it would be good. I don't think that would be possible. Nobody hopes to give birth to a special needs child, but once they are here, you fall in love with the whole child. I have a son and a nephew with Autism and I think it is just a part of what makes up their personalities. I also have a niece and a nephew with Down Syndrome and they are wonderful people with wonderful personalities. Perhaps if these conditions could be "fixed" at or before birth, it would be a good thing, but once a child develops a personality, you wouldn't want to change it.

nonmember avatar Gretta

No genetically modified foods..... but yes to genetically modifying people?!?!

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

If we can cure it without risk to the individual- absolutely. Embracing differences is great, but we shouldn't WANT people to be or remain handicapped.

Rando... Randomlady

Should we cure illnesses that would bring unnecessary hardships and struggle both physically and mentally to both child and parent? That is your real question once you see it like that. Just because you've seen a lot of high functioning down's or autistic children doesn't mean they are all like that. I know a child, my cousin who is on the very severe side of down's who is 29 years old and has the mentality of a 6 month old. He is expected to die soon because down's who are that severe also tend to live shorter lives. Would his mother have wished her child could have spoken a word, gone to school and had friends, maybe learn to drive? Yes, I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted a giant 180lb baby to take care of until he dies.

Chana... Chanandler.Bong

There are always risks and side effects when we mess with nature like this. I'm more concerned that by deactivating DNA, there will be lasting side effects. It raises serious ethical questions. 

Rhodin Rhodin

Down's isn't just about cognitive abilities, they also have heart defects, thyroid problems, and don't live as long as someone who doesn't have extra DNA laying around.  They can cure all that any time they want.

lovem... lovemyson1224

As some others have stated DS is not just about cognitive issues. There are complications that can shorten life. I would absolutely do what I could.

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