Tag Archives: Autism

On Down Syndrome and other self-inflicted tragedies

Earlier this week Salon published an article about a mother dealing with an adult Autistic son, who’s out of control violence led her to desperate measures. Her story reminded me of the angry responses I’ve received whenever I’ve written against Down syndrome.

Dozens of parents have responded to each post, claiming to have adorable little children with Down’s. (The context to keep in mind here is that Down syndrome is now an optional illness, now that safe and effective testing is available for all mothers in the developed world.) Yet, I haven’t received a single comment from parents of adults with Down syndrome. Where are all the adorable little adults with Down syndrome?

I suspect there are three reasons why I haven’t seen their comments.

First, many of their children died prematurely due to the many health complications of Down Syndrome. (See previous posts for details.)

Second, many children have grown up to become severely disabled adults, and are living in mental institutions at taxpayer expense – or sometimes, in homeless shelters or on the streets.

Third, the minority of parents whose children survived to adulthood and who remained committed to taking care of them on their own know that their adorable babies turned into incomprehensible, obstinate, sullen, capricious, and sometimes very violent adults. Their mental illness makes the world an incomprehensible place to them, and their unpredictable behavior makes them bewildering to their caretakers.

Have you ever noticed the ratio of mentally disabled children to that of mentally disabled adults in social situations? The apparent disparity goes beyond their lower life expectancy. I suspect that the surviving retarded children grow into retarded adults, fundamentally unable to deal with civilized life, and hidden away in homes and institution and highway underpasses.

My point is that human disabilities, mental and physical, are a tragedy to be avoided at all costs, not something to be accepted as unavoidable fate, or worse, to be cherished for their uniqueness. They ought to be screened, aborted, and engineered out of the human race as soon as medically and technologically possible. If this is obvious to you, great. Unfortunately, inexplicably, even rational people whom I respect differ with me on this issue. The only proper response for parents who make such choices ought to be moral condemnation: if they have chosen to have crippled children, they ought to condemned, and all the pain, frustration, violence, and expense caused by their choice ought to be placed squarely on the parents.

(In response to the inevitable comments, I must emphasize that the condemnation extends only to the parents. Like all human beings, the victims of their parents’ choice ought to be cherished, and every effort should be made to integrate them into society and make them productive adults.)

One last observation: I’ve already written how many parents who choose to have Down children treat them as religious icons when they are small. When they grow large, how many of them treat them as pets that have grown too large to keep in the house, and delegate them to a locked basement, or a mental institution?

Update: Thanks to everyone for their comments. Rather than trying to respond to individual comments, I have summarized my response here: The One Minute Case for Designer Babies. Many of the other comments address abortion and eugenics. I responded to those arguments in this post.


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