A recent AP article, “Comfort or Conflict: Earlier Down Syndrome Test,” explores the ethical challenges posed by a new type of DNA test for Down syndrome. In the near future, DNA tests for Down syndrome may be available as a simple blood draw, and the new tests could give parents accurate results earlier in the pregnancy than with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS).
The article notes that this new test raises complex ethical concerns, because a Down syndrome diagnosis before birth can “pose a difficult challenge for couples as they decide whether to continue the pregnancy,” according to Dr. Mary Norton, director of Perinatal Research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
A recent study concluded that advances in testing (and, thus, more options for would-be parents during pregnancy) have contributed to an 11 percent decline in Down syndrome births in the U.S. between 1989 and 2006, a time during which rates were expected to rise 42 percent.
In California, about 1% of all children with special health care needs have Down syndrome, according to 2005-06 survey data, the most recent time period for which data are available.