What is it about children with special needs that's so awful that women are opting for such drastic and permanent measures?
My hypothesis is two-fold -- the historically inaccurate and undeserving stigma attached to those with Down syndrome and our insatiable appetite for perfection in every aspect of our lives is to blame. Abortion is just the means to an end.
My husband and I chose not to have the prenatal amniocentesis, a procedure used to accurately detect chromosomal abnormalities and gender. We accepted our child from the moment of conception. But, are other women who make a different choice discriminating against the disabled or just exercising their right to choose? That's for you to decide. Regardless of the answer, the latest research is promising and has the potential to change the face of Down syndrome.
A team of Harvard University scientists have created a new technique that generates “pluripotent cells” - the procedure utilizes stem cells from the skin and bone marrow and turns them into stem cells (pluripotent cells until now were only found in embryos) in an attempt to reprogram the cells to act like embryonic cells, which will allow doctors to find new treatments and slow the progression of the 10 incurable medical conditions including Down syndrome.
The scientists aren’t claiming that creation of these cells is to genetically correct them and then reintroduce them to the body but they’re also not denying that one day that’s where the research is heading. Mick Bhatia of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario said, “the beauty would be that you’re taking the persons own cell, so if you correct it at a genetic level, by putting it back in, those cells won’t be rejected.”
As a mother of a son with Ds – I’m looking forward to the potential this research and others happening around the world will bring. But, that’s another post - for another day.
In so many ways, the struggles with Down syndrome are like other medical battles – fought with an outward smile and an inner strength many can’t comprehend. There is also an inner turmoil that silently drives you to learn everything. For me, it’s an unrelenting pursuit of knowledge that knows no boundaries when it comes to my son.
Tomorrow -- The Kennedy/Brownback bill - the turning point for Down syndrome and the medical community.