"The main demerit is that, if as a consequence of the diagnosis some
abnormality is found, there is danger of abortion... Is the right to live
decided out of the existence or of the absence of a handicap? The second
concerns the sense of social alienation of the mother and her family, because
human society does not try to accept the disabled. A different demerit
will be that, by the diagnosis of the handicap, there is danger that the
value of the human person gets diminished.
The problem is clear. Society is the main issue surrounding medical diagnosis
during pregnancy. Although difficult, the reform of the attitudes of society
towards disabled people will be the most efficient way to stop the demerits
of diagnosis during the pregnancy period."
When I started to write this report I was, both, at a loss and furious.
Why do people look in a special way at the disabled? I feel pity for a
society that creates such a situation. Although I think I am myself objective
in expressing my opinion, I may be also standing by the side of those who
discriminate against the disabled.
Most probably, genetic screening is not going to disappear in the future.
The reason is that, since it is a free selection, it is a means people
with selfish human rights vision use. There is no need to stop the diagnosing.
Once more and more people know what happens as a result of the diagnosis,
little by little, efforts should be made to improve it."
"According to my opinion, even in case of a newborn disabled child,
genetic screening is useful when the parents make a decision to accept
that child in their own family. There is time left for preparing themselves
before the child is born; there are cases when a premature treatment produces
good results and prevention of disability might still be possible.
....After all, persons are free to have or not to have medical diagnosis
during pregnancy. I thought it was important to have access to good counseling,
no matter what decision one makes with regard to the diagnosis. Parents
should know exactly before making a decision."
"I can not condemn a person who had an abortion, because she was not
confident about raising a disabled child, a very heavy task, specially
once she understands she is going to give birth to child with a handicap.
On the other hand, if our society did not make it so hard to raise a handicapped
child, and if it were not such a difficult society for people with handicaps
to live, in my opinion mothers will not think about aborting their own
children...It is not a matter for society to change, rather, people living
in such a society do change it. When many more people know and deepen their
understanding about the disabled, and when people are able to organize
society so that the handicapped themselves can easily live there, then
I think that the demerits of diagnosis can be kept to a minimum."
"The expression "medical diagnosis during pregnancy" was
new to me. I did not feel any prejudice at the time I heard it, and I just
accepted it as something useful.
.... I imagined myself pregnant and been told that, the medical examination
showed that the child was disabled. To be honest, although this is just
fiction, I can not say for sure at this moment that I will give birth....We
should make a society free of prejudices, where people are able to deal
with the disabled, although I know that this can not be done immediately
and time is required. I still feel within myself a kind of a wall, with
regard to persons with disabilities, and before I have a baby I want to
become an excellent person who knows how precious life is, and who is able
to deal with people without prejudices."
A radical solution would be to refuse having a diagnosis, or in case one
has it, to limit it at those who want to give birth in spite of the possibility
of a handicap. There are merits involved in the diagnosis and those should
also be respected. There is a strong tendency these days to consider an
adversity to have a handicapped child, and I think that the first step
to change such a situation is that an increasing number of pregnant mothers
give birth naturally to disabled children. But so this can happen, society
should be totally prepared to accept them. There is still a big gap there.
From now on, families with handicapped children and society must dialogue,
because unless they listen to each other and come closer together, a final
solution is not going to be found."
Reading these written opinions I noticed several key points that might
be useful in teaching bioethics to attract the interest and understanding
of young people today.
- Many students point out that social prejudices are the cause of risks in
genetic screening. They indicate there is need at the time of diagnosis
for doctors to explain in detail the content of the diagnosis and to provide
counseling with right information. Nevertheless, in fact, such information
and guidance are totally lacking.
- Almost all the students stress the need of suitable support for the parents
of the handicapped children. There is an urgent need to demand measures
so that society accepts the disabled, like employment facilities and educational
institutions where the handicapped and other children can get to know each
other while studying together.
- A number of student make an appeal to the fact that parents, by giving
consent to the birth of disabled children, are already paving the way to
make changes in the social prejudices existing today with regard to the
disabled. They point out that, on the contrary, the abortion of a handicapped
foetus leads as a result to stronger discrimination. It is interesting
to notice that among the reasons given to oppose abortion, those students
who complain against a discriminatory treatment of the disabled are more
than those who say that it is a denial of the respect for human life.
- Quite a few students mentioned their experiences with the disabled which
made them change their opinions with regard to handicapped children. Those
personal experiences are valuable.
Such were my impressions in reading the reports of the students. It will
be an unexpected blessing to me if teachers of religion or ethics could
find hints here to attract the interest and understanding of young people
to such issues.For further contacts:
- Kitahara Takashi
- Fax. 03-5991-6928