No, Mary, A Cure For Down Syndrome Isn’t Wrong, But Infecting Readers With Your Warped Ethical Reasoning Is

Let me know when Mary's gone and it safe to take my boot off.

Let me know when Mary’s gone and it’s safe to take the boot off.

The internet can carry the contagion of horrible reasoning with astounding speed, especially since so many of us have been slow to accept that being published no longer creates any likelihood that a writer has a coherent thought worth reading. Even knowing this, I was still taken aback by the startling ethics illiteracy on display in blogger Mary Fischer’s post  titled “Possible ‘Cure’ for Down Syndrome Seems So Wrong.” This is the kind of undisciplined, emotion-driven, bias and rationalization besotted thinking about life issues that Ethics Alarms was launched to combat, and yet reading Fischer’s sloppy substitute for thought, I still found myself wondering: How does someone get this way? How do they function in life if their method of determining right from wrong reaches conclusions like this? How many people read posts so devoid of anything resembling legitimate ethical analysis and  allow it to become part of their belief system?

I’m not even sure that I want to know the answers to these questions.

Fischer begins by noting that recent experiments with mice have raised hopes of science someday developing a form of gene therapy that could reverse the effects of Down Syndrome, presumably allowing children with the genetic disorder to lead normal lives. Then, she embarks on a series of head-exploding statements concerning her belief that to treat a Down Syndrome child would be wrong:

  • “After thinking long and hard about what I would do if I had a baby with Down syndrome and there was the option of trying to reverse it — the decision suddenly became crystal clear. I’m just not sure I could bring myself to do it — unless I knew 100 percent that there were absolutely no risks involved…”

This logic would presumably also stop Fisher from doing anything else, since even staying in bed all day is not 100% risk free. Eating has risks; sleeping has risks; any form of transportation has risks, all medical treatments have risks. People who say they won’t do something unless it is “100% risk free” either don’t comprehend reality, which means they are incompetent to write blog posts, or they are looking for an excuse to avoid doing what they should be doing. In Fischer’s case, I suspect both are true.

  • “….and that I wasn’t necessarily “changing” who my baby was by allowing the treatment.”

Now what is that supposed to mean? A Down Syndrome sufferer is typically at a significantly greater risk than a normal child of having heart defects, getting leukemia, and suffering from infectious diseases, early dementia, seizures, sleep apnea, obesity, gastrointestinal blockage, thyroid problems, early menopause, hearing loss, premature aging, skeletal problems,  poor vision and a shortened life expectancy…in addition, of course, to the signature physical deformities and mild to serious mental retardation. Is being obese, sick, dumb and short-lived “who your baby is”? I can tell you if that is who I was going to be, I would not hesitate to beg my mother to do whatever was necessary to help me be someone else. If that is who and what a child is going to be, and a mother has the chance to remove or lessen those hurdles to a healthy, happy, rewarding life, that mother has an absolute ethical obligation to do so, risk or not.

  • “Here’s the thing — I’m an “everything happens for a reason and things are meant to be” type of person. And when it comes to babies, I firmly believe that you get the child you are supposed to have — and you love that baby unconditionally no matter what.”

An “everything happens for a reason and things are meant to be” kind of person is also known as an ignorant person on ethical autopilot. “Everything happens for a reason” is and has always been a particularly lazy and passive excuse for inaction when action is called for, and an insidious rationalization for refusing to engage in life. If you want to use this nonsensical cliché to help you get through life’s tragedies, be my guest. However, using it to avoid changing what needs to be changed and helping those you can help is irresponsible and an abdication of one’s duty to family, culture and civilization. No child is disabled by a genetic defect “for a reason.” Spreading and advocating such a cruel idea charges past reckless and stupid into the neighborhood of evil. It is crack for the mind.

  • “I think that if I were to have a baby born with Down syndrome — it would feel like I was somehow monkeying with nature by injecting him with something to physically alter who he is simply because he’s not “perfect,” — and something about that doesn’t seem right.”

In fact, whatever Mary is doing has nothing whatsoever to do with “thinking.” To describe a Down Syndrome child as “not perfect,”, as if health, vision, physical ability and cognitive function is some kind of  optional luxury, is rationalization at its most pathological , framing an issue so dishonestly as to make objective and valid analysis impossible. Not that Mary appears capable of such analysis:  finding something “not quite right” about “monkeying with nature” makes some sense if one is talking about Dr. Frankenstein, but treating human disorders is called “health care.” Hygiene is “monkeying with nature”; a haircut is “monkeying with nature”; so is lifting weights, training one’s singing voice and getting a haircut. Presumably Mary also regards CPR and chemotherapy as in the same category.

  • “And I know the argument can be made that trying to “reverse” Down syndrome isn’t really all that different from treating a baby who has an illness in the hopes of making him well again. But Down syndrome isn’t a disease (or at least I’ve never thought of it that way at all) — which makes me think that trying to reverse it is basically like trying to change a baby’s genetic makeup.”

Translation: “I am completely ignorant about genetics, disorders, and Down Syndrome, but that won’t stop me from publishing my irresponsible opinions about them!”

After some blather about not judging any parent who would do otherwise—predictably, Mary will identify what she thinks is wrong, but wrong is a purely subjective concept for the Mary Fischers of the world, meaning that there is no right and wrong at all….she writes,

  • “The best thing any parents can do for their babies is whatever they feel in their hearts is the right thing. All we can really do is love our children wholeheartedly and do what we believe is best for them — and hope that we’ve made the wisest possible choice.”

And if those parents believe in their hearts that what is best for them is to raise the kiddies as science-hating primitives, white supremacists and cannibals, why, that’s fine too!

I know this is shooting fish in a barrel, but there needs to be a hierarchy of responsibility for a brain-decaying, potentially dangerous essay like this. First, it should never be written, because the author has devoted neither the thought nor research necessary to hold a responsible opinion on the topic. Second, it should not be posted if it is written. Whoever runs the website disgraced it. Third, if something this irresponsible is published, it should be criticized, condemned, rebutted, mocked and generally savaged, so nothing like it sees the light of day again.

Mary Fischer, based on this post, is beyond help. However, we should try to make sure that her toxic thought processes do as little damage as possible.

Spark and Pointer: Instapundit

Sources: Mayo Clinic, The Stir

17 thoughts on “No, Mary, A Cure For Down Syndrome Isn’t Wrong, But Infecting Readers With Your Warped Ethical Reasoning Is

  1. This new age malarkey makes me throw up. Of course we will be able to change certain genetic disorders. We already do it with plants to make hardier strains to feed more people and be pest resistant. This woman is enmeshed in a particularly brain dead interpretation of karma which is callous and narcissistic.

  2. “Everything happens for a reason” is and has always been a particularly lazy and passive excuse for inaction when action is called for, and an insidious rationalization for refusing to engage in life.

    I wonder why people continue to insist that this is true.

    • Why people continue to insist that everything happens for a reason, or why people continue to insist that is an insidious rationalization?

      People like this Fischer person who have such incredible misconceptions regarding the nature of consciousness scare me a great deal. This sort of mentality causes most if not all societal problems, as far as I can tell. I wish posting opinions like hers in earnest was grounds for requiring remedial philosophy classes until people learned to sustain coherent thought and reasoning.

      • Perhaps she should have been taught the harm of the deadly sin of sloth/aceda. Jesus healed the lepers, not reveled in their illness because it was meant to be. If you are told to help the sick and poor in the bible in the ways you can, how can not helping your child be anything but reprehensible? This isn’t picking gender or eyecolor, but will affect your child’s life as much as if she failed to teach them not to touch fire. I hope she has no youngsters to be ruining.

  3. I don’t think men have the genetic makeup to judge a woman’s bond with her child, but the 70 comments on her article from other women, seem to indicate she is wrong wrong wrong! And their reasons are quite logical and compelling.

    • I see similar thinking in the resistance to treatments for deafness (it will wipe out deaf culture). It seems to come from (or at least consistent with) cultural and moral relativism, People have been indoctrinated with the idea that it is wrong to judge other cultures or even anyone else’s behavior. With such a system, it is wrong to even try to define what it is to be normal. A person so paralyzed with fear to judge anything is left with no other option but to claim ‘everything happens for a reason’. Such people will also be outraged by anyone who does not feel bound by such limitations.

      I also feel the tripe about a ‘special bond’ between mothers and their children is similar to the idea that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I have met far too many women in the last few years that care nothing for their children (although all proclaim their children are the most important things in their lives) and too many fathers that have sacrificed greatly for their children to believe this in the slightest. I have seen no difference in mothers and fathers in their devotion (or lack of) to their children.

      • Over the years I’ve learned not to question a mother’s fearless dedication to her child.. And nothing like “things happen for a reason” Mothers typically put their lives, and everyone else’s, before their children, and want nothing but the best for them.. Of course there are exceptions. When faced with reality, not theory, as in the case of this article, I would trust a mother’s judgement to be true.

  4. People who hold to the never judge, never choose, never hold one lifestyle above another are inevitably the worst kind of hypocrites. They are supremely and stubbornly the least self-aware people on the planet. Articles like Mary’s help us by showing the complete foolishness of their notions. Thank you for pointing it out where ever you find it.

  5. I’m surprised this hasn’t come up yet, with the life span of this topic so far:

    If genetic “therapy” can be developed for various genetic “maladies”, and can be applied, as they ought to by parents to fix the various “deficiencies”.
    We can assume that at some point, eventually we can manipulate genes for a wide variety of inborn or characteristics, traits or tendencies.

    Who is the deciding actor in adjusting those traits?

    It’s pretty obvious for certain preconditions and deficiencies, such as an ability to prevent loss of sight or loss of hearing or Down syndrome, that yes, it is the right thing to do to ‘fix’ the problem.

    What about later on, as science understands and engineers can manipulate more? Perhaps shortness, or big ears, or excessive sweatiness, or buck teeth are ‘problems’ that can be ‘fixed’? Who decides what is ‘normal’ and what is not? What will be the reaction towards the parent who chooses to “cure” (in their minds) whatever genes may lead their child to, say, homosexuality?

  6. As they say, all technology is a double edged sword, with an equal capacity for good or evil. The more advanced the technology, the greater the potential consequences either way. This is certainly true in the field of genetics. Nor have the possible benefits and drawbacks from this sort of research even begun to manifest themselves.

    Many good people have a fear of what genetic science can do and has done already. Genetically manipulated grain, cloned livestock, gene splicing; these are enough to cause concern to anyone. But it must be an INFORMED concern, otherwise the benefits will disappear as well. It will be almost literally a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    I think just about everyone would have moral qualms about splicing in alien or artificial genes into human DNA. However, I maintain it’s quite another case to correct manifestly flawed genes if the ability is there. To cure a disease, you must go to the source of affliction. Viral, dietary, glandular… or genetic. Otherwise, you are merely treating the symptoms.

    It’s true that this burgeoning science will eventually make possible procedures that would render the tale of Frankenstein into the equivalent of a Mother Goose rhyme. That, however, has already been the case prior to genetic research. All this does is reaffirm what many of us already know; that the standards of the medical profession have been made lax and need reaffirmation by the societies that govern their members’ conduct.

    Nor would banning this entire line of research help. All it would do is assure that the future practitioners would be outside the rules from the beginning and beyond all standards. It would be like those who seek to ban nuclear power. You can’t. The genie is out of the bottle… forevermore.

    The potential benefits from genetic therapy are incalculable. This must be born in mind with any deliberations on the ethics of its use. Just be prepared for the horrors that will derive from those who misuse it. But that will happen anyway, whether we seek to use genetic medicine for good or not. As always, it’s a matter of limiting the bad and maximizing the good.

  7. I am uncertain of the target of this woman’s criticism. If she is unwilling to subject her child to early clinical experiments, then that is not necessarily unethical. This treatment has been shown to work on mice, but at this stage has not be tested on human children. The potential benefits must be weighed against the potential for unknown severe side effects or toxicity.

    If she were unwilling to use ever this genetic therapy, even if clinically proven to reduce or eliminate symptoms of Down’s with acceptable potential side effects, then that would indeed be unethical. Believing the child is destined to suffer from Down’s even with effective treatment available is indeed malarkey and dangerous thinking.

    Her post is clearly skewed towards the latter scenario. A responsible piece might urge caution embracing experimental treatments. An irresponsible one, as Mary Fisher has written, condemns the potential final treatment as “messing with nature”.

  8. If I had to guess why ‘everything happens for a reason’ persists I would start by looking to religion. ‘Everything happens for a reason’ is very much like saying, “It’s God’s will.” We may not have the foggiest notion of what God wills, but we are sure He has a plan. He must! Nowadays, people can use that same rationalization sans God. Everything happens for a reason, but we still have no earthly idea what that reason is.

    The problem, however, is that that same rationalization can be used to defend all manner of actions and outcomes. One hypothetical example: There is now a cure for Down Syndrome, and everything happens for a reason (therefore God wills it). Of course, Mary may find it difficult to explain what that reason is.

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