Parents consider quality of life when deciding to abort

Editor:

In response to Eric Vogeler’s column (“Fascist medicine? Prenatal screening for Down Syndrome devalues human life,” Jan. 10), I was stunned at the audacity he had to suggest that people who abort a Down Syndrome fetus are related to Nazi extremists.

It is impressive to see the spread of ignorance-based attitudes disseminated to the public by writers who suggest that they understand a topic enough to draw conclusions about the ethical basis of a choice made by those who are presented with the possibility of watching their child suffer.

This is not a matter of superiority. Unlike the kind of sentiment that Vogeler invokes by comparing aborting a DS fetus to the perverse eugenics of fascist Nazis, we are not selecting for arbitrary characteristics such as blond hair.

Vogeler ignores the pain associated with watching any child die at an early age, yet about one-third of DS patients die by age one, while one-half are expected to live no longer than four years.

The majority of these deaths are caused by congenital heart disease.

Of those who survive, various complications persist, such as respiratory infections, epilepsy, gastrointestinal complications, thyroid dysfunction, hearing loss, diabetes, obsessive-compulsive disorder and an increased risk for leukemia.

It isn’t that they’re not welcome. That we hope to prevent the suffering of DS patients is what Vogeler did not see at the Special Olympics-those who’ve already died or are too sick to enjoy the quality of life that they deserve were not present.

Vogeler reports that up to 40 percent of amniocentesis tests for DS are inaccurate, suggesting there may be a high number of healthy fetuses being unnecessarily aborted.

Yet according to the New England Journal of Medicine, combining first-trimester and second-trimester amniocentesis tests results in a 96 percent detection rate, with a false-positive rate of fewer than five percent.

Vogeler: “Science fiction, meet the new Aryan movement.”

Me: Welcome to a higher standard of informed and responsible parental decision-making.

Todd Raleigh

Senior, Biology