Thursday 23 November 2017

Down Syndrome Ireland blasts pre-natal testing

The newborn baby was returned safely
The newborn baby was returned safely
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Down Syndrome Ireland has blasted a pre-natal test that can determine whether a pregnant woman is carrying a baby with Down Syndrome.

Non-Invasive Pre-natal Testing is able to tell pregnant women, with 99pc accuracy, whether their babies have Down Syndrome.

While the test has been around for a while it is slowly being rolled out publicly across several countries.

Pat Clarke from Down Syndrome Ireland said that information needs to be provided to families so they can understand the “implications of the test”.

“Science thinks the test is 99pc accurate but that’s still 1pc that show false negatives. That’s a significant number based on population.

“In the old tests up to 700 perfectly healthy babies in the UK were terminated because they showed a false positive,” he said.

“We try and ensure that health professionals give balanced and up-to-date information to prospective parents.

“It’s important that parents know the implications of the test before hand.”

Clarke said they get regular calls from parents who had a pre-natal diagnosis looking for information and support.

“The pre-natal tests shouldn’t be the be all and end all. Across the continent women who are expecting children are put under pressure to take the test.

“A lot of parents won’t take the test because they wouldn’t do anything about it anyway because of their ethics, culture and morality.

“When my son was born 35 years ago, we had no pre-natal tests available, not that we would have taken them anyway. He’s now a healthy independent man with two jobs and an active social life.”

In Denmark, where tests for Down Syndrome are widely available, just 10 children were born with the disability last year.

Clarke said this is the reason the UN introduced 'World Down Syndrome Day', so countries are obliged to raise awareness on the condition.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing is not funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland, but can be carried out privately for a fee.

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