Court ruling on NHS liability over Down’s Syndrome will increase pressure to ‘eliminate’ – Brian Wilson

The idea that having a child with Down's Syndrome is a family tragedy disappears over time (Picture: Neil Hanna)
The idea that having a child with Down's Syndrome is a family tragedy disappears over time (Picture: Neil Hanna)
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A pernicious High Court judgment found the NHS was liable and must pay compensation after failing to identify the “risk” of a Down’s birth, writes Brian Wilson.

An international study of families with a Down’s Syndrome member showed that while 25 per cent saw this as a tragedy when first aware, in time this dropped to 0.68 per cent.

I wonder if a question on how children in general turn out would reveal so few families thinking in retrospect it had all been a bit of a “tragedy”? Down’s is different – but very far from tragic.

I hope that survey and similar positive evidence are included in information to prospective parents faced with decisions about “testing” to discover whether they might – repeat might – have a baby with Down’s.

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Hope but doubt – for the drift of public policy is towards elimination rather than empathy; encouraging fear of the unknown in order to remove a social inconvenience rather than promotion of understanding.

The models are Denmark and Iceland where close to 100 per cent elimination has been achieved.

They create a desert and call it peace. Which condition will be next for such clinical, Scandinavian efficiency?

A couple in Berkshire are waiting to know how much “compensation” the NHS will have to pay after a pernicious High Court judgment that failure to identify “risk” of a Down’s birth made the hospital liable. So now pressure will be even greater to identify in order to eliminate – even though it leads to more non-Down’s than Down’s terminations.

I unconditionally support the right to choose – but choice must be based on balanced information rather than pressure and prejudice.

People with Down’s and other conditions then suffer from double jeopardy – the fewer there are, the less obligation there is to make decent provision for their needs. Progress comes in some very strange forms.