A recent news item in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by Roger Collier, Prenatal DNA test raises both hope and worries, discusses the relatively new prenatal diagnostic technique of chromosomal microarray analysis, contextualized by the case of Annie Farlow, which we have discussed in the posts What Sort of Death for Annie? and Deathmaking by medical neglect. Some think that Annie’s fate was sealed by her diagnosis of trisomy 13, not so much because of the nature of the condition itself but because of the downstream effects that labeling had on the medical treatment she received (or not). As the article says,
In August 2005, Annie, not yet 3 months old, suffered a respiratory attack and was admitted to hospital. She died within 24 hours. The official cause was “complications of trisomy 13,” but Farlow and her husband still don’t know the details, despite years of inquiry. They do know, however, that someone issued a do-not-resuscitate order without their consent. “I feel that the genetic testing ultimately determined her fate,” says Farlow, who lives in Mississauga, Ontario. “She was treated as a syndrome. She wasn’t treated as a child.”
Will treating someone as a syndrome rather than as a child become further consolidated as the norm with the widespread adoption of techniques like chromosomal microarray analysis, which detects chromosomal “anomalies” 100 times smaller than those that can be detected by the karyotyping done by amniocentesis? Most likely. Will parents accept or even demand CMA, once its costs come down, as happened with amnio? Most likely. Will we be further towards a new form of eugenics, striving for human perfection and discarding those who create uncertainty that they will measure up to the norms that issue from the heady cocktail that is one part prenatal testing, one part the modern pursuit of human perfection, mixed with a splash of complacency?
CMA is not yet available in Canada … but stay tuned.