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Playing God with ‘Cures’ that Might Be Unnecessary

The headlines have been varied. One simply reads, “Breakthrough!” Another reads, “New Scientific Discovery May Hold Key to Saving Infants with Down Syndrome.” Written for the National Catholic Register, I’m surprised by the tone it begins with. It reads, in part, “WORCESTER, Mass. — Scientists have unlocked a new discovery in Down syndrome research that could lead to revolutionary new therapies, and even offer hope of an option instead of abortion for mothers who find out their child has Down syndrome.”

The article goes on to applaud the research because it used “ethical stem cells.” It makes the assumption (and likely correctly) that less Down syndrome will mean less abortions. I’d like to think even the most ardent supporter of “choice” can agree that less abortion is a good thing. These genetic discoveries could allow for chromosome therapy and the possible alleviation of some effects of Down syndrome. Other articles, though, continue to refer to this new research as the beginnings of a possible “cure.”

It’s an alarming sort of irony; applauding ethical stem cell usage that will further the scientific possibility of eliminating a certain type of human being.

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, neuroscientist and ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center at Yale, does say, “At this point, it seems doubtful that scientists will be able to correct, in an ethically acceptable way, the extra chromosomal defect in all the cells of the body of patients with Down syndrome.”

“Seems doubtful?” It merely SEEMS doubtful? I’ve often mentioned the slippery slope of medical research that goes on daily throughout the world. This is a perfect example. In my eyes it will be impossible to “correct” Down syndrome in an ethical way. Especially when using words like “correct” implies there is a mistake to fix. Is there?

Parents of kids with disabilities have all been asked the question. I am no exception. “Would you take away your daughter’s disability if you could?” I usually just say no. Some days I’d like to answer that with a question or two. Would you change the color of your son’s eyes? Would you make your daughter a blond? I can no more imagine my girl any differently than you can imagine your child. And I wouldn’t want to.

I often wonder how people expect me to answer. What are we taking away? What are we curing? Which needs to be fixed more; my daughter or the way you view her? Which is the bigger “disease?” Having a disability or being unable to tolerate the people that do?

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Pauline Wolak

Pauline is a proud wife and mother of three. When she isn't being the world's greatest Girl Friday, she is volunteers her time as a school librarian and athletic director. Pauline enjoys football, politics, good beer, and arguing with anyone. She's a devout pro-life Catholic. Pauline believes in the 1st Amendment and uses it on a daily basis, most notably to ambush unsuspecting family members in political debate! You can find her work here at Clash and at Follow her on twitter at @MiStateFan.