Saturday, October 07, 2006

Towards A Perfect World?

My first acquaintance with Down’s syndrome happened in my early teens when I used to go to Cottolengo Special School in Fort Kochi for physiotherapy sessions twice a week. A boy with chubby cheeks and small eyes used give my mother company while Sr. Annie and Sr. Margaret tried hard to flex my extra-stiff limbs.

I wasn’t aware of what that boy was suffering from or what his condition was called. I began to understand the condition much later during my days in Raksha, a special school in Kochi. I understood that this condition happened due to chromosomal abnormality, which could be detected even during the early stages of the pregnancy so it was possible to terminate the pregnancy if one wished to.

During the same time I happened to see a debate between the moral brigade and the science brigade on BBC about the pre-natal detection of disability. The next day I took up the subject with someone, who had experience of working in disability field, she said that striving for a perfect world and our reluctance to accept something different may be good arguments, but I won’t advise anyone to knowingly bring a disabled child into the world, when we ourselves are not sure about our lives how can we bring a child who will need our support all his life.

Some days back my friend Nilesh posted a news item on his blog titled Down Syndrome births drop: Decline suggests abortions up in wake of better tests

I again took up the subject with another able-bodied friend who is ten years younger to me , married and with a child, with no connection in disability field except me. He reflected similar thoughts as the previous person I had discussed the subject with.

I myself am unclear on the subject, I have sometimes wondered (and sometimes wished also) what would have happened if similar tests were available for Cerebral Palsy before I was born. The world in which I live in would have been a slightly different in my absence, better or worse is anybody’s guess.

P.S. but during a meeting held recently to discuss the proposed amendments in the People with Disabilities Act, which has provisions for prevention of disability I realised that this pre-natal detection is similar to sex-determination test, which is illegal.

P.P.S. imagine sometime in near future a test is developed that could screen defective foetuses that have the potential of turning out to be wife-beaters, hate-mongers or child-abusers then this world will surely be perfect.