Science09 Sep 2010 08:50 am
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes lifelong mental retardation, developmental delays and other problems. It is the most common genetic cause of severe learning disabilities in children, occurring in one in every 700 to 800 infants. It varies in severity, so developmental problems range from moderate to serious. Infants born with Down syndrome may be of average size, but typically they grow slowly and remain shorter than other children of similar age. Individuals with Down syndrome have a distinct facial appearance. Some of the more common features are:
• Flattened facial features
• Protruding tongue
• Small head
• Upward slanting eyes, unusual for the child’s ethnic group
• Unusually shaped ears
Until 2007, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. As a result many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.
Some physicians and ethicists are concerned about the ethical ramifications of this. Conservative commentator George Will called it “eugenics by abortion”. However, the roughly 90 percent of pregnant women who have chosen to have an abortion after being given a diagnosis of Down syndrome appear to feel differently…
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