Friday, March 21, 2014

"Possible 'Cure' for Down Syndrome Seems So Wrong"

There have been reports of a treatment for Down's syndrome in mice that seems to reverse some of the cognitive disabilities.

Mary Fischer comments:

In what is no doubt very interesting news, a new scientific breakthrough has found a molecule to "reverse" the effects of Down syndrome in mice
The mice involved in the research were genetically altered to mimic the characteristics of Down syndrome, and when they were born, they were given injections of the molecule, called sonic hedgehog pathway agonist. It urges on a gene that generates a protein shown to normalize the growth of the cerebellum -- a part of the brain that is typically 60 percent of its normal size in people who have Down syndrome. 
The injections were also shown to improve memory and learning, which are controlled by thehippocampus. 
And while there are no plans to attempt this sort of treatment on human newborns -- it does raise the question of whether or not parents would want the injections for their babies if it ever did become an option. 
After thinking long and hard about what I would do if I had a baby with Down syndrome and there was the option of trying to reverse it -- the decision suddenly became crystal clear. I'm just not sure I could bring myself to do it -- unless I knew 100 percent that there were absolutely no risks involved -- and that I wasn't necessarily "changing" who my baby was by allowing the treatment. 
Here's the thing -- I'm an "everything happens for a reason and things are meant to be" type of person. And when it comes to babies, I firmly believe that you get the child you are supposed to have -- and you love that baby unconditionally no matter what.

She raises very real ethical questions: what are the ethical limits to human "improvement"? Should we give short people growth hormone? Should we cure disorders like Down syndrome that impair intellectual function? Is Down's syndrome really a disorder, and not merely a difference?

It's a valid and important question, and shouldn't be passed off as ridiculous.

But I would answer that we should cure a baby with Down's syndrome, as long as the treatment was reasonably safe and the likelihood of effectiveness substantial. Cognitive impairment is a real disability, and does cause people with Down's syndrome real problems in life. There are also physical disabilities associated with Down's (heart problems, propensity to certain kinds of cancer) that could be prevented.

From a Christian perspective, it's worth noting that the Lord seemed to have no fondness for disease or disability-- He healed continuously, with mercy and with passion. With each healing, He seemed to say: "I will not let evil do this to My children".

If Down's syndrome can be healed, it should be. What is never ethical is to kill the person with the disease, and equate it with healing. 

4 comments:

  1. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 21, 2014 at 7:00 AM

    To begin with, if "everything happens for a reason and things are meant to be", then this treatment is meant to be found.

    The question of treatment isn't ridiculous, any more than a a question about using NSAIDS for arthritis pain and risking internal bleeding or liver damage is ridiculous.

    But Mary Fischer's argument is as ridiculous on its face as the argument that congenitally handicapped babies should be murdered. Babies are neither family therapy interventions nor economic units.

    Having said that, Doctor, you must realize that your little opinion piece doesn't rise to the level of "worth knowing". Just look at what your betters are writing about...

    NBC News - does weather affect what we buy?
    CBS News - police have released new photos from Kurt Cobain's suicide
    ABC News - why Warren Buffet is still rich and you're not
    Fox News - NCAA upsets hurt bracket hopes
    CNN - epic 2-letter win on Wheel of Fortune

    Getting the picture here, tovarisch?

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    1. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMarch 21, 2014 at 7:09 AM

      NB: Comparing the Doctor's posts with those hot news items, it's clear why Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) suggested a "litmus test" for journalism.

      Dudes, was that Wheel of Fortune thing awesomely awesome, or what?

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  2. But I would answer that we should cure a baby with Down's syndrome, as long as the treatment was reasonably safe and the likelihood of effectiveness substantial.

    What's reasonably safe, what's a substantial likelihood? Is a 10% risk of dying acceptable if survivors have normal cognitive abilities?

    What is never ethical is to kill the person with the disease, and equate it with healing.

    Who equates euthanasia with healing? And what makes you an authority on what is or isn't ethical?

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  3. Yes of coarse heal the problem. Who would say no? Not the kid!
    Indeed I think all these problems are JUST interference with the triggering mechanism for the memory. So it caught my eye about how it increased memory/learning.
    Indeed maybe even one could bypass the business of size of bits in the brain. Its about maintaining accurate memory function.
    Remember Christianity insists we are thinking souls. Our brains are not relevant to the soul. So it could only be the memory that interferes with our thinking.
    Savants being the great clue as i see it. however we only have a soul when it comes to thinking. Just like in a computer. The computor thinking is separate from its memory.

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