Interesting facts

Interesting facts for Midwives, GPs and parents

  1. Like all people, those with Down syndrome are defined by their basic human dignity and not by their genetic makeup. They are loved and valued members of our families and communities. They make positive contributions to our society.
  2. Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition.
  3. In a recent Children’s Hospital Boston survey 99% of parents of children with Down syndrome reported that they loved their child, 97% were proud of their child, and 79% attributed a more positive outlook on life to their child.
  4. For every 100 women who screen at high risk for Down syndrome, RANZCOG state that only between four and six of them will be carrying a baby with Down syndrome.
  5. The screening pathway is non-therapeutic. Diagnostic testing causes miscarriage and morbidity. Thus it is more harmful than beneficial to a mother’s unborn child.
  6. The screening pathway leads to maternal anxiety and foetal hazard. Interrupting the pregnancy has adverse mental health outcomes for the mother.
  7. There is no evidence that babies with Down syndrome can have a better medical outcome due to screening and testing. Medical problems associated with Down syndrome can be detected by routine antenatal clinical care without a diagnosis.
  8. It costs around $70,000 to detect an unborn child with Down syndrome.
  9. Before the 2010 quality improvements around 55% of all babies with Down syndrome were not born due to antenatal screening and intervention. When Denmark introduced the same “quality improvements” the impact was a further halving in births of children with Down syndrome. A similar trend here would result in around 80% of all births of children with Down syndrome being prevented. Many people recognise that this is eugenics.
  10. The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association does not consider Down syndrome in itself a reason for termination of a pregnancy.
  11. People with Down syndrome and their families are best placed to provide parents with a diagnosis with accurate information and knowledge based in direct experience.

Ethics and the Hippocratic Oath

The original Hippocratic Oath has been updated by the Declaration of Geneva. It has been adopted by the World Medical Association and reflects the dedication of medical professionals to the humanitarian goals of medical practice. It includes:

  • A commitment to the service of humanity.
  • A duty to act with conscience and dignity.
  • A commitment to not allow a disability to intervene between ones duty and their patients.
  • Upholding the utmost respect for human life.

Many people in the Down syndrome community consider the screening programme to be eugenics, as it targets this community for birth prevention based on their biological difference. Such practices offend medical ethics, human dignity and the basic principles of humanitarian justice and international law.

Midwives and general practitioners have a statutory right to refuse to participate in antenatal screening for disabilities under Section 174 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. This provides for conscientious objection in relation to any reproductive health service.