A world without Down’s syndrome? – BBC News

90 percent of individuals within the United kingdom who know the youngster is going to be born with Down’s syndrome come with an abortion – there are concerns a brand new, highly accurate test to recognize babies using the condition, can result in much more terminations.

“The physician stated to all of us: ‘I’m sorry, I am so sorry.’ The nurse working cried. I do not think anybody stated anything more positive,” states Sally Phillips. “It can’t happen to be different if they’d explained my child wasn’t will make it.”

Her boy, Olly, was ten days old, as he was tested for Down’s syndrome – the outcomes returned positive. But Phillips – the actress and screenwriter most widely known on her roles in Miranda and Bridget Johnson – found existence having a child with Down’s syndrome wasn’t exactly what the hushed tones and apologies had brought her to anticipate

“I had been told it had been an emergency and really it is a comedy. It’s just like a sitcom where something seems to visit wrong there is however nothing bad in the finish from it.Inch

She describes existence in her own family as “just slightly funnier compared to other families,” because of Olly, who’s now 12 and would go to a mainstream school. She also offers two more youthful children, neither who have Down’s.

“Getting Olly within my existence has altered me and my loved ones for that better. He’s slightly worse impulse control but this means that it is extremely funny because he’s frequently saying precisely what everybody’s thinking but is simply too shy to state.

“He’s also incredibly caring. He’s the only person of my three kids who each day asks me how my day was. He’s really kind. He’s really centered on others. He’s really gifted emotionally. He’ll notice if individuals are upset after i will not.”

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Media captionMeet Sally and Olly

Sally Phillips explores the problems round the new prenatal test in A World Without Down’s Syndrome at 21:00 on Wednesday 5 October on BBC Two.

Within the United kingdom, about 750 babies are born with Down’s syndrome each year and you will find an believed 40,000 people in the united states coping with the problem.

Almost everyone has 23 pairs of chromosomes, but individuals with Down’s come with an extra copy of chromosome 21, meaning they develop differently and also have different amounts of learning disability. Some kids with Down’s have couple of health issues, but certain medical complications – for example heart, gut, hearing, or thyroid conditions – tend to be more common in individuals with Down’s.

The current NHS screening, that is provided to all pregnant women will, gives a sign from the likelihood that the baby may have Down’s. When the foetus has got the condition, there’s an 85% to 90% chance the existing test will get it, but a couple of.5% of good results are false which babies do not have Down’s.

Right now, the next thing is amniocentesis or CVS (chorionic villus sampling), the only real tests that may for sure show whether an infant has Down’s syndrome. These two exams are invasive – a needle can be used to consider an example from the fluid all around the baby or cells in the placenta – and have a chance of miscarriage. It is a risk some women will not take.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Amniocentesis is generally led by ultrasound

This is when NIPT – the brand new non-invasive prenatal bloodstream test – is available in. It might soon be provided to women being an extra, next step within the screening process. It’s 99% accurate and carries no recourse of miscarriage.

Therefore the false positives is going to be identified earlier and less invasive tests transported out.

That sounds good – however, many people, including Sally Phillips, worry it’ll imply that more foetuses with Down’s is going to be identified and aborted.

NIPT has already been obtainable in private clinics. One lady in her own 20s who tried on the extender to discover that her baby had Down’s syndrome met track of Phillips to speak about her experience.

Following a positive NIPT test she went ahead by having an invasive test which confirmed the end result.

It was her first pregnancy. Unsure of what life for the child would be like, she and her partner did some research online looking at news reports, videos of people with Down’s and support group websites.

“Rather than the clinical research and a doctor saying, ‘This is what it will look like,’ what I was more interested in was family stories,” she says. They found a lot of positive and inspirational testimonies, but some were troubling.

“There were blogs by mums so you see some of the difficulties that people are going through. There was one woman, her five-year-old’s still not walking and he’s very heavy and she’s having to deal with him having fits everywhere,” she says.

“If my child was affected as much as he was I would feel really guilty about that having been given the choice. Even the best case scenario isn’t what I want for my son.”

So she and her partner decided to end the pregnancy. “We felt that was the best thing for the baby,” she says.


For Phillips it can be difficult to accept that someone doesn’t want a child like hers.

And she is worried that her son will grow up in a world where more parents choose not to give birth to babies diagnosed with the condition. She gives the example of Iceland, where almost everyone screens for Down’s and 100% of women who have a positive diagnosis now terminate.

Icelandic photographer Sigga Ella, whose aunt had the condition, took a series of portraits of individuals with Down’s to boost understanding of the Down’s community there.

Image copyright Sigga Ella
Image caption Jakob
Image copyright Sigga Ella
Image caption Halldora
Image copyright Sigga Ella
Image caption Birta

However in the United kingdom in regards to a third of women that are pregnant opt from screening, therefore if that continues to be the situation, these babies who’ve Down’s continuously go undetected until they’re born.

Within the United kingdom the brand new test has been produced by Lyn Chitty at Great Ormond Street Hospital – professor of genetics and foetal medicine.

She transported out research to determine what women do when they’re offered NIPT. According to these studies she believes that the extra 195 babies with Down’s might be diagnosed in Britain every year before birth.

But though 90% of ladies within the United kingdom having a positive Down’s diagnosis have abortions, she does not accept is as true means many of these 195 pregnancies is going to be ended.

“I truly do not believe that we will be screening out Down’s syndrome,” she states. “I’ve found it quite distressing. I’d a journalist phone me up and say ‘You’re likely to annihilate Down’s.’ Well, I do not think that will happen.

“Unfortunately everybody’s searching at hypothetical scenarios, they are searching at ‘what if’ situations.

“We found that many women were while using NIPT test to discover whether their baby’s got Down’s syndrome, inform themselves and continue with her pregnancy. If you look at our statistics it won’t considerably alter the live birth rate.”

The data associated with terminations are complex and construed differently by both sides from the debate. But all experts agree that what sort of proper diagnosis of Down’s syndrome is presented may influence whether parents decide to follow the pregnancy.

Image copyright iStock

“The entire essence of the good screening programme may be the counselling you’ve even before you possess the bloodstream test done or even the scan done,” states Alan Cameron, foetal medicine consultant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow.

“You need to get an informed choice, and surely my experience is the fact that much less women would terminate now compared to what they ever did before since i think situations are better people Down’s kids getting good, healthy, lives, working locally, the thing is kids around with Down’s syndrome which are carrying out a good job.”

In early 1980s existence expectancy for a kid born with Down’s was twenty five years, however nowadays it comes down to 60, with a few living to their 70s. And a report published in 2014 shows how employers can usually benefit from hiring staff with Down’s.

Screening has not been a situation of “let us try to eradicate Down’s syndrome in the population,” states Cameron. “That’s never been the mission… It had been all on the rear of women’s choice.”

He admits, though, that although medics have lengthy considered the ethics and effects of screening among themselves, they weren’t excellent at discussing this using their patients and also the public.

This is when the Nuffield Council on Bioethics is available in. As the government will get prepared to announce the roll-from NIPT over the NHS, the council continues to be talking with scientists, doctors, policy makers, individuals with Down’s as well as their families to evaluate what impact it might have.

“There has been screening for Down’s Syndrome for decades, so in terms of the enterprise of offering women informed choice NIPT doesn’t really change that,” says Tom Shakespeare, chairman of the Nuffield working group, which plans to publish its report in February.

But it does open the door to testing for other conditions.

“It could be used by people who have a single gene condition, like cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy or achondroplasia – my own condition,” he says.

“Ultimately you could have whole genome sequencing so you could test that sample for everything – it’s the next step and because NIPT is non-invasive you’re not going to risk the foetus.”

And for him, like Sally Phillips, it comes back to how results and information are given to prospective parents.

“I support the option of screening for those that want it but it needs to be on the basis of good quality information – why are prospective parents not being given the full information about Down’s syndrome?”

“It’s not just about trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome) or risk of intellectual disability – it’s also about what are people’s lives like? What barriers do they face? Do they suffer? If you’re potentially having a baby with a condition, that’s what you want to know – how will it affect my family? How will it affect my child? How will it affect their life? How much of a problem is it?”

These are questions the new blood test is not able to answer.

Karen Gaffney is really a 38 year-old American lady with Down’s syndrome. This past year she gave a TED talk on why her existence matters. It is really an edited form of her speech – you are able to watch the full version here.

Image copyright Barbara Gaffney

I must begin by suggesting about my fifth grade teacher. It had been her newbie training after i demonstrated in her class. She did not know anything about Lower syndrome however that did not matter, because she understood I needed to understand, and she or he desired to educate. She and that i have remained in contact. A couple of years back, I acquired a unique letter from her – she explained that they was pregnant and she or he needed my help, because her baby could be born with Down’s syndrome!

She pressed back on any discussion of termination because she understood Lower syndrome from the different perspective than her physician did. She trained him about her fifth grade student… me!

At one time when individuals much like me were institutionalised. After I was created, the physician predicted which i could be lucky so that you can tie my very own footwear or write my very own name – he didn’t remember to say the part about me swimming the British Funnel.

We have started to see increasingly more youthful individuals with Down’s syndrome graduating from high schools, some starting with greater knowledge employable skills. You will find accomplished musicians, artists, golfers, models, actors and public loudspeakers, in addition to good employees making significant contributions for their companies and communities. All of these are heroines for what you can do regardless of one extra chromosome.

It is from perfect, though, breakthroughs haven’t come for everybody so we have battles to battle for inclusion.

Also it appears the race is onto find newer, faster methods to test for your extra chromosome before birth – the issue is without timely and accurate information, about all of our progress, when the test shows an additional chromosome, pregnancies are now being ended. We’ve individuals who say we should not be also born whatsoever.

In my opinion Down’s syndrome is really a existence worth tallying to. Every existence matters whatever the quantity of chromosomes we’ve.

Image copyright Barbara Gaffney
Image caption Karen Gaffney before a 9-mile go swimming across Lake Tahoe

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