Archbishop Chaput of Denver has always been known for the direct approach. In this recent address to the Catholic Physician’s Guild of Pheonix, AZ, Chaput calls upon medical professionals to be accountable for the pressure that many expectant parents experience not only with the ultimate decision to terminate if Down syndrome or birth defects are diagnosed, but even to engage in prenatal testing and screening to begin with. “God will demand an accounting,” he warns.
The Task of the Catholic Medical Professional
byMost Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap
A number of my friends have children with disabilities. Their problems range from cerebral palsy to Turner’s syndrome to Trisomy 18, which is extremely serious. But I want to focus on one fairly common genetic disability to make my point. I’m referring to Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.
You may already know that Down is not a disease. It’s a genetic disorder with a variety of symptoms. Therapy can ease the burden of those symptoms, but Down syndrome is permanent. There’s no cure. People with Down syndrome have mild to moderate developmental delays. They have low to middling cognitive function. They also tend to have a uniquely Down syndrome “look” — a flat facial profile, almond-shaped eyes, a small nose, short neck, thick stature and a small mouth which often causes the tongue to protrude and interferes with clear speech. People with Down syndrome also tend to have low muscle tone. This can affect their posture, breathing and speech.
Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle. And the reason why
it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul. That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come. continue