Friday, March 16, 2018

Ethical Frontiers: The End of Down Syndrome in Iceland

Advances in prenatal testing now go beyond giving us the ability to know the gender of our unborn children. We're able to learn many other things, one of them being whether our child has Down Syndrome.

George Will's Tuesday opinion piece in the Washington Post has some frightening implications for ethicists: The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide. In Iceland, because of this ability to identify Down Syndrome in advance, nearly all families are aborting the children thusly identified.

What makes Will's piece so striking is the juxtaposition he makes between what is happening there (only two Down Syndrome children in the tiny island nation) and what has happened here, where the Gerber baby food company has selected a Down Syndrome infant to be its "Spokesbaby," a first. His name is Lucas, and he hails from Dalton, Georgia.

By definition, genocide is the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people.

I can already hear people crying foul, that the State has decided fetuses are not people yet, so we shouldn't compare this to Brave New World. (Does anyone remember how they dealt with this issue in 1930's Germany, or undesirables here in the U.S. at that time?)

When I think of Iceland I think of a photographers' Paradise. It has spectacular and unique vistas you just don't see every day, active volcanoes and winter awe, all of which combined to make me think of this poem by Robert Frost.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on...

Photo credit: Gerber publicity still.

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