Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, can be traced back for centuries through art work, however it was not identified until the late nineteenth century, and the cause remained a mystery until 1959. In 2000, an international team of scientists identified and cataloged each of the genes on the chromosome 21.(approximately 329) With this information, more advances were able to made in research and the treatment of Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome is the result of a chromosomal disorder that occurs during the creation of a new baby. Normally when cell division occurs, 23 of a mother’s chromosomes combine with 23 of a father’s chromosomes to create 46 total chromosomes. These chromosomes decide the sex of the baby as well as the physical traits that the baby will have. Sometimes during this process, a third copy of chromosome 21 appears, creating what we call Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome (DS), resulting in a total of 47 chromosomes. This extra chromosome causes the baby to develop differently physically and mentally.
With this information readily available in books and on the internet, a Florida doctor informed a young and frightened mother to be, that because her husband was taking Interferon for liver disease, her child would likely be born with Down Syndrome. If that were not enough, the statement was followed by encouraging her to abort her child. The reasoning, because having a child with Down Syndrome is "too much work."
The cause of DS has already been established, medication is NOT it. Furthermore, the side effects of Interferon do not include DS. It is stated that taking the medication may cause birth defects and should not be taken if you wish to become pregnant or father a child. This doctor took a big leap from birth defects to Down Syndrome and showed his extreme ignorance by indicating the belief that a medication can cause Down Syndrome. However, it has opened the door for advocates to educate others and bring awareness to the cause of Saving Down Syndrome.
Individuals with DS are at a higher risk of certain health problems and generally have some degree of developmental and cognitive delay. Unfortunately this doctor is not the first or only to encourage aborting babies because they have a genetic disorder. Raising a child with DS may be different than raising typical child at times, but to say it is "too hard" is certainly not something described by parents. With medical advances, therapeutic interventions, early education, and inclusive practices that have been implemented over the recent years, individuals with DS are living longer, fuller lives.
If you are curious how real parents, family members and caregivers feel about raising an individual with Down Syndrome feel, visit a local Down Syndrome Support Facebook page. Yes, there are struggles when raising a child with DS, but what parent does not experience struggles in raising their children at some point? Parenting is not always easy, but whether your child is typically developing or not, it is always worth it!
The thread about the doctor and the appeal of the parents can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/groups/dsacf/. This group is very interactive and was created to support families and spread awareness of the joys of Down Syndrome.
Families, friends, caregivers and individuals themselves are encouraged to use the comment section in this article to share your experiences with DS.