At the centre of the controversy is that smile — that distinctly Down syndrome smile, more haunting than the smile on the Mona Lisa. To those who happen to have eyes to see, it is in itself a moral, and a mystical revelation. I have dreamt, towards Christmas, of the Child in the manger: surely Jesus smiled upon his mother like that.
he also wrote:
as I know from first hand (my younger son is Down’s), they are an extraordinary gift, to those parents and to any siblings, or others, who are brought into contact with a love, a fidelity, an emotional attentiveness, a kindliness, a joy, an innocence, an orb of communicable experience and perception that enlarges and deepens us.
related item: Pearl Buck and her retarded daughter.
Her daughter had PKU, which now is screened for and the retardation prevented with a strict diet.
when I first studied in medical school, doctors recommended all such children be institutionalized. Thanks to the Kennedy family, that has changed, and most are now cared for at home or in home style care homes.
but Down's syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality (they have an extra chromosome). Some wonder if genetic manipulation like CRISPR could "cure" or treat their deficiencies or other genetic causes of disabilities.
JohnsHopkins article discussion.
Nature also discusses the possibility and the ethics of genetically manipulating children.
one problem is that manipulating genes in embryos or growing fetuses is essentially "experimenting" on someone who cannot give their consent.
For minor things, like beauty genes or high IQ, this would be immoral, because if the experiment didn't work, the embryos would be discarded or left to die.
But the dirty little secret is that in today's world that stresses perfection, that most children with Down's syndrome are aborted. Changing their genes at time of diagnosis might give more mothers the courage to oppose the pressure on them to abort and give their baby a chance to live.
additional note: people with Down's syndrome have higher incidence of some disease like Leukemia and Hypothyroidism, and may develop Alzheimer's disease in middle age. All these things are from immune changes from the chromosome. One reason that in the past (i.e. check out any textbooks from the 1940's) was that they tended to die of infections before they reached puberty. Antibiotics changed this.
there is also an increased chance of certain congenital heart defects. In the 1960's they discussed if these children merited open heart surgery, which at the time was rare and risky. Now few would deny the children such treatment.
I remember one major magazine had an article about a woman whose child had Down's syndrome and heart problems, and was disappointed the child lived. She said she planned to become an activist for euthanizing such children.
Well, she had her wish: Not euthanasia, although Singer and other professional bioethicists would recommend infanticide, and of course, most of the Down's syndrome children are aborted so no one has to actually confront the face of the child you killed.
But of course, as European progressive nations have proven: Just wait a decade or two and infanticide and murder of children under the guise of compassion will be promoted.
Sometimes these stories makes one hope that the pro life Muslims will take over the place. .. although as this BBC link suggests, the PC are working on modern "religious" experts to change this.
A similar pro life bias is found among most Africans and AmerIndians, seeing abortion as the same as taking a life, although some tribes do allow early abortion for grave reasons, and of course, taking herbs to bring on one's period is seen as contraception, not abortion.
hence the push for "abortion pills": out of sight, out of mind...
Yet, as the banning of the "SMILE" film suggests, even these mothers remember:
But with Down's and genetic abortion, you don' t have that option.
I ran across a comedy about a one night stand with an acquaintance, where the woman got pregnant, and the dude went with her to the doctor's... and they did an ultrasound and saw the beating heart of their tiny old baby...
the dude was speechless and the mother could only cry with mixed emotions.
Nowadays, a blood test will diagnose a lot of Down's syndreme kids early ,so if you want to abort early you can. Of course, the chance of a false positive is there... even if the newest fancy test claims a 0.1% of false positive, you still have lab error, mosaic chromosomes and other problems.
The lab error problems are especially big when testing in populations with a low risk of a problem. LINK
Seattle news article discusses the problem here.
... often after the 16 week ultrasound, where abortion is quite risky and you have to pull out fetal parts to kill the kid. Some delay even longer, hence the use of fetal poison to kill the kid or decompressing the skull of a partially born child (AKA partial birth abortion).
Pearl Buck was told her child would never be normal, so put her into an institution and forget about her. But as the article points out, you never do forget...