Calls to stall new pre-natal test

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Another group has objected to the introduction of a pregnancy test that detects accurately conditions such as Down’s Syndrome.

Last week, Down’s Syndrome advocacy group ‘Don’t Screen Us Out’ called on the Manx government to revoke its decision to roll-out the test – called a cell free DNA or non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) – which is projected to lead to an increase in the number of terminations of children with Down’s Syndrome.

The group said this raises ethical issues and there has been no consultation with people with Down’s syndrome and their families.

HEAR (humanity and equality in abortion reform) echoes the concerns and said its introduction should be delayed until information and support for parents are implemented.

HEAR said the high rate of abortion for Down’s syndrome and other disabilities, ‘is the context of how medical care deals with such diagnoses. In the UK, as a Parliamentary Inquiry on Abortion for Disability in 2013, parents who receive a diagnosis of foetal disability are frequently given little information and support by doctors, but only a stark assumption that they will want an abortion, or even pressure to do so. In the Isle of Man, there are indications that a similar situation operates.’

More testing ‘could lead them going through the pressure that British mothers experience to abort their baby, rather than receiving the support they need to bear and take care of them.’

HEAR spokesperson Hannah Grove, said: ‘CfDNA and other forms of NIPT can become the means by which a lack of proper care forms a cover for the eugenic screening out of people with disabilities ... through abortion. Especially when doctors put implicit or explicit pressure on parents to go through with that course of action.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said the tests were a choice for pregnant women. ‘The tests are not offered with the intention of expecting or encouraging women with a positive result for Down’s Syndrome, or any other condition, to have a termination.’

Some women want ‘a better understanding of what the pregnancy outcome may be ... they may simply wish to be prepared for the birth of a baby with a condition.’

The NIPT would not replace the current 10 to 14 week blood test and ultrasound and would not therefore increase the overall detection rate of Down’s Syndrome. 
‘The Department has not yet consulted on this matter and is still reviewing the findings from the UK and monitoring developments there. No decision has been made.’ Because it avoids a risk of miscarriage, ‘there are no new ethical issues for the department to consider.’

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