Mike Kueber's Blog

February 19, 2012

Down syndrome – an update

Filed under: Culture,Medical — Mike Kueber @ 3:27 pm
Tags: ,


This week’s issue of Time magazine has an excellent article on the status of Down syndrome in America. 

The focus of the article is on the effect of scientific advances that enable earlier and easier detection of Down syndrome.  Because 90% of the women who learn that they a carrying a fetus with Down syndrome have their fetuses aborted, the article assumes that earlier and easier detection will result in an America that is populated (currently 400,000) with fewer and fewer people with Down syndrome.  Paradoxically, the article suggests that that diminishing population will result in reduced government services because large numbers and scalability often facilitate improved services.

I was shocked at the 90% termination rate of fetuses found to have Down syndrome.  Not surprisingly, however, the one woman who was extensively reported on in the article ultimately decided to have the baby.  Despite the widespread support in America for abortion rights, there is still widespread disapprobation awaiting any individual woman who acts the right.

Because of the advancing age of women in America having babies, and because the age of the mother significantly affects the likelihood of having a baby with Down syndrome (1 in 100 for a 40-year-old mother as compared to 1 in 691 for all mothers), you might think the population of Down syndrome babies would be exploding.  But it isn’t.  Over the past 20 years, the advancing age of mothers should have resulted in an increase in Down syndrome births of 42%, but in fact the numbers decreased by 11%.  That is clearly the cause/effect of testing and abortion. 

Regarding the scientific developments on testing, it has three key components:

  1. Detection can be as early at 10 weeks (before the mother is visibly pregnant);
  2. Instead of a scary amniocentesis, testing involves a blood sample; and
  3. The risk of miscarriage is eliminated.

Another significant scientific development with Down syndrome babies is that, because of a new surgical technique that corrects a heart-defect found in half of the Down syndrome babies, their life expectancy has gone from 25 in 1983 to 60 in 2011.

Sarah Palin is one of the 10%, and I admire her action, but I sympathise with the other 90%.



  1. Just a for what it’s worth. My sister was told that the tests indicated her child would have Down Syndrome. That was over 20 years ago. He was a honor student and varsity athlete in high school, and is now a junior at Texas Tech University doing very well. Back then, there was a chance (I believe it was 15%) that the result would be a false positive. In his case, it was. If that is still true, how many healthy babies are being aborted?

    Comment by Bill — February 19, 2012 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

    • Bill, from what I can determine, there are several types of screening that produce a significant number of false positives, but that amniocentesis does not result in false positives. The problem with the amniocentisis is that it results in 1-2% miscarriages.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — February 19, 2012 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

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