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Cure, But Don't Harm

Leticia Velasquez

For years, I have grappled with whether I would welcome a cure for Down syndrome for Christina, my 11-year-old daughter. I was once forced to answer the question on live television in New York. "Would you take Christina's Down syndrome away if you could?" talk-show host Michael Coren asked me.

Shocked, I stared into the camera and said, "I love her as she is. Down syndrome has shaped her, but it does not define her. Yes, if there were a safe treatment to improve her memory and learning, I would give it to her."

It sounded like a politician's answer, but it is the truth. I love my daughter's loving and spontaneous personality. And I fear what a cognitive "cure" would do to affect her singular qualities, innocence, and complete lack of concern for the opinions of others. She has taught our family how to love unconditionally and approach God with childlike confidence.

Still, Down syndrome places real limits on Christina's life. She gets frustrated often by her inability to communicate effectively. It breaks my heart. When she was 5, she could speak very well. But her verbal abilities sharply declined after that. I can't help hoping that one of the many cognition-improving medicines currently in clinical trials may be a "cure" to help her speak and make friends.

I worry that it will become a societal goal to eliminate these loving members of society rather than to help them reach their potential. Jérôme Lejeune, the renowned French pediatrician who discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome, sought treatments that physicians could apply in utero. In the late 1960s, Lejeune, a Christian, became ...

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April 2014

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