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Should new non-invasive screening for Down Syndrome be available?

Image: freestocks.org

A new test available on the NHS, named NIPT, can prove with a 99 per cent accuracy whether a foetus has a disability – specifically targeting the recognition of down syndrome. The previous test had an accuracy of 50 per cent, forcing parents to take an invasive exam which carried a 1-100 chance of miscarriage as well as uncertain results. The new test has been the focus of intense debate between groups representing both parents of disabled children and the disabled community.

It is said that, raising a child with a disability is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding tasks parents can undertake. Many parents of disabled children say they would not have it any other way; equally many who chose to abort agree that they would not change their decision. Is there a right answer? Is it morally right to raise the child and try to give them the best life possible; or is it better to prevent the inevitable suffering which comes with a disability? This issue ultimately comes down to choice.

This is why the new test is so important – it gives parents the choice to raise a disabled child, or to abort. Both options carry their respective challenges and opportunities. If the choice is taken to abort, children living with disabilities and the parents of those children are unaffected – despite the protests made by many of these parents in the media. Decisions are made on a personal level and each individual situation is different. Parents who abort should not be viewed as cruel or unethical, much in the same way that parents who choose to keep the child should not be viewed as a strain on society or the economy.

There is even a third option, to not take the test at all. For some parents, not knowing is a more favorable option. It lends a sense of fate to the situation. Whichever option is right for each individual set of parents should be viewed as the right decision. Furthermore, parents of disabled children should not view the option to abort as being insulting to their own child. Many parents are mentally, physically, and economically equipped to raise a disabled child. Many are not.

Ultimately, parents should decide what is best for the family unit. Allowing each individual to choose whether or not to keep the child maintains the societal perception that there is no right or wrong option. This test should not be viewed as contributing towards the elimination of disability, but to maintain the ability of parents to make their own choices.

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The Student Newspaper 2016