A growing number of influential figures have spoken out about their concern over a new screening test for Down’s syndrome which could see 92 more babies with the condition being screened out by termination every year.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron responded to a question from the MP for Ribble Valley, Nigel Evans, saying that there are “moral and ethical issues that need to be considered” when screening for Down’s Syndrome and that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is “going to have to find a way through this”.
Speaking after the debate Mr Evans said “I do not want to see babies with Down’s syndrome being screened out and I would strongly urge the Government to look again at its introduction”.
Today, Bridget Jones’ Diary star Sally Phillips, whose eleven year old son Ollie has Down’s Syndrome, spoke out on the Radio 4 Today Programme about the new screening. She expressed her upset at this “arms race for new technology” which is “dehumanising” to people with Down’s syndrome.
She added that “people with Down’s Syndrome have never been included in the debate, they have never been asked”. This follows the revelation from the government in a Parliamentary Question that “no assessment was made” of the impact that the test would have upon the Down’s Syndrome community.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, a coalition of Down’s syndrome advocacy groups, are urging Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to delay the implementation of the new test until there has been full consultation with the community of people with Down’s syndrome and medical reforms have been introduced which provide greater support for parents who have received a pre-natal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome.
Lynn Murray, spokeswoman for the campaign, said:
“It is imperative that the Government do not rush into a decision on this new pre-natal screening test without full and proper consultation with people with Down’s syndrome, their families and Down’s syndrome advocacy groups.”
She added, “There needs to be a full review of the compliance of prenatal testing with international disability rights standards, such as the Convention on the Rights with Persons with Disabilities, and full support introduced to parents of children with Down’s syndrome.”
Notes to editors
- See briefing here for more details regarding the new pre-natal test and the concerns of the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign.
- Campaign photos here can be used for media purposes and can be downloaded in high resolution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dontscreenusout/
- For more information on the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, see our website www.dontscreenusout.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- For interviews, please contact Don’t Screen Us Out spokeswomen:
Lynn Murray: (0044) 01313340133, Email: email@example.com