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Brendan O'Connor: Would 'fixing' our child with Downs mean we'd be given back a stranger?

Brendan O'Connor nearly crashed the car when he heard that scientists were holding out the prospect of switching off the extra chromosome that leads to Down syndrome. As parents of a much-loved child with the condition, he and his wife discussed the issue and found it raised profound questions about what makes us who we are

Published 21/07/2013 | 05:00

Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor

I FIRST heard on the radio last Thursday morning that scientists have found a way to switch off the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

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I nearly crashed the car. It was like a kick in the stomach but I wasn't sure why. I drove home, rattled. Did you hear that thing they mentioned on the radio? I asked my wife. She hadn't. I told her. She literally reeled and ended up leaning on the worktop with tears in her eyes. She went out to hang up some clothes so the kids wouldn't see her crying and we didn't say much more for then.

We talked when we were composed again and by then I had processed a bit more why it had felt like such a punch in the stomach. I know I've mentioned this once or twice before, and sorry for bringing it up again, but our second daughter Mary has Down syndrome. It still feels odd to write that because I don't think of her, obviously, as Mary with the Down syndrome. She is just Mary, and in a way, her extra chromosome is just part of who she is.

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