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Ethics – Down’s syndrome

June 2016

Influential figures have spoken out about their concern over a new screening test for Down’s syndrome, which could see 92 more babies with the condition being terminated every year.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 5 May, David Cameron responded to a question from the MP for Ribble Valley, Nigel Evans.

Mr Cameron said there were ‘moral and ethical issues that need to be considered’ when screening for Down’s syndrome and that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is ‘going to have to find a way through this’.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Evans said, ‘I do not want to see babies with Down’s syndrome being screened out and I would strongly urge the government to look again at [the test’s] introduction’.

Bridget Jones’ diary star Sally Phillips, whose 11-year-old son Ollie has Down’s syndrome, spoke out on the Radio 4 Today programme about the new screening. She said she was upset at this ‘arms race for new technology’, which is ‘dehumanising’ people with the medical condition.

The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of advocacy groups, is urging Mr Hunt to delay the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down’s syndrome.

It is also calling for medical reforms to be introduced that provide greater support for parents who have received a pre-natal diagnosis of the syndrome.

Lynn Murray, spokeswoman for the campaign, stated: ‘It is imperative the government does not rush into a decision on this new pre-natal screening test without full and proper consultation with people with Down’s syndrome, their families and advocacy groups’.

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