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Ethics – Don’t Screen Us Out

November 2016

A controversial new, non-invasive, pre-natal test (NIPT) for Down’s syndrome is under public scrutiny.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is suggesting that, though expensive — given the high cost of treating children born with Down’s — it might still be cost-effective to give the test to all.

However, such a move would lead to an increased number of abortions, since nine out of 10 babies diagnosed in the womb with Down’s are aborted in the UK.

Don’t Screen Us Out is campaigning for the government to consult those with Down’s syndrome, and their families, about NIPT. It also urges the government to do more to support those with the condition.

Dr Elizabeth Corcoran, of the Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation, said: ‘It has always been our fear that these types of calculations and economic analyses go on behind closed doors between policy makers, but here it is in black and white.

‘It is utterly shocking that someone can put a cost value on someone’s life just because they have a disability. It is worse still that this comes from a respected Royal College that is a professional beacon for doctors’.

Her comments were echoed by those of Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship. He said the NHS’s discussions around NIPT echoed attitudes towards the sick, elderly and disabled propagated by the Nazis.

He commented: ‘The area where “cost-benefit” calculations are most evident, and discussed quite shamelessly in the medical literature, is prenatal diagnosis and abortion for congenital abnormalities’.

The controversy came as a BBC documentary, ‘A world without Down’s syndrome’, showcased famous people who are against the introduction of the NIPT. Sally Phillips, who has a child with Down’s, made a strong case against the new NHS pregnancy screen.

However, the BBC was criticised by Jane Fisher, director of liberal lobby group Antenatal Results and Choices, who in an interview with the Guardian, said Sally was a ‘compelling presenter’, but using her may have ‘risked offering the suggestion to those who have decided to end a pregnancy that they have made the wrong decision’

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