The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 19, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Jay Bringman, MD
Pages 37-45

Challenging Underlying Assumptions of Wrongful Birth
Parental Counseling and Self-Perceptions of People with Down Syndrome

The concept of wrongful birth, which is based on the premise that a person would have been better off never having been born, is a serious mat­ter for Catholic obstetricians, especially in the context of prenatal screening. This principle, in conjuncture with the belief that individuals with disabilities have a decreased quality of life, has been used to promote a eugenic mentality. Consequently, prenatal screening tests often are used to identify fetuses with disabilities, who subsequently are aborted. Not only is this practice ethically reprehensible, but its presuppositions about quality of life find little support in the medical literature. In fact, in the case of Down syndrome, there is consider­able evidence to the contrary: individuals living with Down syndrome have a high quality of life and are accepted by their families. These data illuminate the discrepancy between how physicians portray Down syndrome to expect­ant parents and what the literature shows regarding this condition.