Monday, August 11, 2008

Eugenics gone good?

The culling of humans beings to increase the quality of the species when performed forcibly by governments in the past was a crime against humanity.

But when performed voluntarily by middle-class parents today, often at the urging of their doctors ... who notices?

As our scientific powers to eliminate disability grow, our acceptance of disability wanes. To cite just one example, consider the rapid near-disappearance of people with Down Syndrome.

Between 80% and 90% of women who find out they are carrying a child with the chromosomal abnormality (which can be tested using amniocentesis) choose to abort. A Harvard medical student who surveyed 1,000 women who were pregnant with Down Syndrome babies reported that many were urged by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies; one woman's physician told her that her child would "never be able to read, write or count change." This at a time when new developments in medicine have nearly doubled the average life span of people who have the condition to 49 from 25 years.

As a culture, we have made what Amy Laura Hall of Duke University Divinity School calls a "democratic calculus of worth" regarding Down Syndrome...

WSJ, from a remembrance of Harriet McBryde Johnson.