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Down Syndrome Has Almost Been Eliminated In Iceland, And People’s Reactions Are Heartbreaking
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Down Syndrome Has Almost Been Eliminated In Iceland, And People’s Reactions Are Heartbreaking

In countries like the US and UK, people with Down syndrome are gaining more visibility year by year. In Iceland, however, they’ve almost completely disappeared. A recent CBS News probe has revealed why only 2 Icelandic children are born with Down syndrome each year on average, and their findings have sparked a fierce ethics debate online.

Landspítali, or the National University Hospital of Iceland, has been offering prenatal screening tests to pregnant women since the early 2000s, an essential step in detecting development problems in a fetus – including Down syndrome. Unlike the estimated 67% of women in the US who choose to terminate their pregnancies upon diagnosis of the disorder, nearly 100% of Icelandic women do so, making Down syndrome extremely rare in the island nation. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society,” geneticist Kari Stefansson told CBS.

Contrary to Internet accusations of forced abortions and ‘social cleansing,’ all of these abortions performed in Iceland were completely of the mother’s own volition. “We try to do as neutral counseling as possible, but some people would say that just offering the test is pointing you towards a certain direction,” said head of Landspítali’s Prenatal Diagnosis Unit Hulda Hjartardottir.

Despite the often poor prognosis for children with Down syndrome, and the costs associated with their care that are borne by their families, some are still arguing that their existence should be valued by society, and that terminating all Down’s pregnancies is unethical.

Scroll down to learn more, and tell us your thoughts at the end.

Down syndrome is disappearing in Iceland, with only 2 affected children being born each year on average

Unlike the estimated 67% of US women who terminate their pregnancies upon diagnosis of the disorder, nearly 100% of Icelandic women do so

“My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society,” says geneticist Kari Stefansson

These statistics come straight from the National University Hospital of Iceland, where 70% of Icelandic children are born

Despite Internet accusations that these abortions are forced, each one is completely by choice, as mothers do receive neutral counseling

Watch this CBS News video for more information:

In response, people have been sharing stories of their own loved ones living with Down syndrome

Some have even expressly condemned the Icelandic phenomenon, dubbing it ‘eugenics’

Others, however, were able to see through the eyes of an expectant mother faced with an impossible decision

Wrong or reasonable? Tell us your view on the issue in the comments below!

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Troux
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is the same debate as abortion in general. Call it selfish, but some people have certain expectations about the kind of life they want to live. If someone is prepared to be a parent but is not prepared to hold their child's hand all the way into their 30's and to countless therapy sessions, then they should be able to make an honest decision about that rather than start compromising their life as well as others'. A child born into a family of doubts already has two strikes against it and that's not fair to the child. This is just as immoral as choosing what kind of dog you want, rather than just going to the pound and taking any mutt they give. Those who ARE willing to put forth their time as parents or as volunteers to support lives of lesser fortune should be venerated as saints among us, but that means we also must accept that not everyone will be that strong. That doesn't mean they are bad people, it just means they are honest about their limitations as mere humans.

Susan Forbes
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

THIS. And not every DS child is the same, they have a spectrum of abilities and lack of abilities and may have other health issues that impact their quality of life.

Load More Replies...
Dayla Walker
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I personally don't think it's any of my business what other people do with their lives. If I was pregnant, and I was ready to be a parent, and the doctor said my baby would have Down Syndrome, I wouldn't get an abortion. But, that's me. Not everyone has the same opinion about things and not everyone feels the same. If it were the government forcing those women to get abortions, I would definitely not support it. But, these women are getting abortions of their own volition so I have no choice but to support them. They're exercising their rights.

Ruth Mitchell
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have a 23 year old with Downssyndrome I refused the tests with all 5 of mine coz I wouldn't terminate a pregnancy.Yes I was devastated after she was born but I wouldn't change a thing about her.Doctoright think they know what's best for pregnant mothers and I think they try and force us to have these tests for their own piece of mind.

Load More Replies...
Royal_Emperor
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

There is nothing wrong in getting tested. Termination or no termination at least the mother will have time to decide and prepare. Ethics my ass. Science is no fluke, It takes time and lot of money to develop better testing procedure with lots and lots of dead ends. Nothing comes easy or perfectly. Most of the times best solutions, are not ideal solutions. (Sorry went a little off topic)

Caitlin Suzanne
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

My youngest child had what is usually a familial eye tumor, found when she was 5 months old. In her case, it was a fluke. The first 5 years were hard, and she lost that eye at 18 months. I always reminded mylself, ‘At least it’s not a cognitive problem,’ counting my blessings all the way. Today, this child is grown, married, a parent and doing wonderfully. Today, I oversee my mother’s properties, medical appointments and finances, because she has dementia. The time involved in the tasks required keep me from working a ‘real’ job. So, I guess I’m saying I see it from both sides, and have deep sympathy no matter what choices a family makes, if they’re able to. Blessings.

Load More Replies...
Load More Comments
Troux
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is the same debate as abortion in general. Call it selfish, but some people have certain expectations about the kind of life they want to live. If someone is prepared to be a parent but is not prepared to hold their child's hand all the way into their 30's and to countless therapy sessions, then they should be able to make an honest decision about that rather than start compromising their life as well as others'. A child born into a family of doubts already has two strikes against it and that's not fair to the child. This is just as immoral as choosing what kind of dog you want, rather than just going to the pound and taking any mutt they give. Those who ARE willing to put forth their time as parents or as volunteers to support lives of lesser fortune should be venerated as saints among us, but that means we also must accept that not everyone will be that strong. That doesn't mean they are bad people, it just means they are honest about their limitations as mere humans.

Susan Forbes
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

THIS. And not every DS child is the same, they have a spectrum of abilities and lack of abilities and may have other health issues that impact their quality of life.

Load More Replies...
Dayla Walker
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I personally don't think it's any of my business what other people do with their lives. If I was pregnant, and I was ready to be a parent, and the doctor said my baby would have Down Syndrome, I wouldn't get an abortion. But, that's me. Not everyone has the same opinion about things and not everyone feels the same. If it were the government forcing those women to get abortions, I would definitely not support it. But, these women are getting abortions of their own volition so I have no choice but to support them. They're exercising their rights.

Ruth Mitchell
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have a 23 year old with Downssyndrome I refused the tests with all 5 of mine coz I wouldn't terminate a pregnancy.Yes I was devastated after she was born but I wouldn't change a thing about her.Doctoright think they know what's best for pregnant mothers and I think they try and force us to have these tests for their own piece of mind.

Load More Replies...
Royal_Emperor
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

There is nothing wrong in getting tested. Termination or no termination at least the mother will have time to decide and prepare. Ethics my ass. Science is no fluke, It takes time and lot of money to develop better testing procedure with lots and lots of dead ends. Nothing comes easy or perfectly. Most of the times best solutions, are not ideal solutions. (Sorry went a little off topic)

Caitlin Suzanne
Community Member
5 years ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

My youngest child had what is usually a familial eye tumor, found when she was 5 months old. In her case, it was a fluke. The first 5 years were hard, and she lost that eye at 18 months. I always reminded mylself, ‘At least it’s not a cognitive problem,’ counting my blessings all the way. Today, this child is grown, married, a parent and doing wonderfully. Today, I oversee my mother’s properties, medical appointments and finances, because she has dementia. The time involved in the tasks required keep me from working a ‘real’ job. So, I guess I’m saying I see it from both sides, and have deep sympathy no matter what choices a family makes, if they’re able to. Blessings.

Load More Replies...
Load More Comments
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