Reflections on World Down Syndrome Day 2014

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, and 2014 is the ninth year in which it has been held, and the third in which it has been recognized by the United Nations. I want to start this post with an already-widely viewed video from CoorDown that has been up for less than a week, and step back from there.  The video is called “DEAR FUTURE MOM”:

At the time of writing, this video had been viewed over 1.6 million times in 6 days, with over 500 comments on it.  It’s clearly designed to be emotional and to directly send a number of messages, including at least these: anxieties about having a child with Down syndrome are understandable but overblown; children with Down syndrome will likely bring much joy and richness to the lives of any family they are in, and particularly to mothers; and Down syndrome does not obliterate or subhumanize the person who has it.

The need for those messages, and perhaps others, to be sent, loud and clear, is grounded in the sad fact that parental fears associated with potentially having a child who will have Down syndrome are amongst the highest risk factors for people with Down syndrome.  This is because Continue reading

Tracking Chromosomes, Castrating Dwarves

This is the title of a new paper by distinguished historian of eugenics, Paul Lombardo, available for download via SSRN here that recently appeared in the journal Ethics and Medicine. The paper focuses on Charles Davenport, who became the Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1910 and immediate set up the Eugenics Records Office there later that year. It was to become a major institutional force in the development of North American eugenics. While the paper concerns a small episode in the history of eugenics from 1929, what it says about consent, medical intervention, and disability will ring bells for regular readers of this blog. The abstract of the paper reads: Continue reading

Kristina Chew on Eugenics, Fear and Pain

Kristina Chew on autism at, writing in response to her son Charlie’s new neurologist’s request for genetic testing, in a post that begins:

The new neurologist has requested that my son have some genetic testing done, specifically for the PTEN and MECP2 genes, both of which have been connected to autism (and the latter to Rett Syndrome). Which means, there’s been some evidence linking these genes to individuals on the spectrum, but nothing definitive.

Here’s my comment: I’m sure that your neurologist will have an interesting response to the question: what’s the point FOR CHARLIE of genetic testing? Continue reading