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Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Did She Know?

One thing I wonder about Palin's bio is how she knew that her youngest child would have Down syndrome. Given the increased chance of Down with advanced material age, it's not uncommon for women older than 35 to have a prenatal test for Down syndrome. However, amniocentesis brings with it a well-known increased risk of a miscarriage. Another genetic test is chorionic villus sampling, which has an even higher risk of miscarriage. There is no conclusive test for Down syndrome that does not substantially increase the risk of miscarriage. One can use a noninvasive nuchal translucency test that does not increase the chance of miscarriage (the so-called "early screen"), but its results are not conclusive, and the chances of false negatives and false positives are not negligible. All you get from the nuchal translucency is an estimate range of your chances of having a Down syndrome baby or other serious genetic disorder, it does not provide an actual diagnosis.

In order to find out for sure whether an unborn child has Down syndrome or any genetic disorder, you have to weigh your desire to know against the possibility that the test will cause a miscarriage. There are low odds in both cases (miscarriage vs. genetic abnormality), but it's a real balancing question. I'm just curious about how Palin, knowing that she intended to have the baby regardless, made the decision to go through with genetic testing. Do pro-life groups have a position on genetic testing?

5 Comments:

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Wilson said...

I was just reading about this actually. The best recent study indicates that the risk is only .06%, which is not much greater than zero.

I looked around and it looks like she went with an amniocentesis at her own behest.

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Frances said...

There is a lot of controversy about the risks involved. Mayo clinic estimates the risk of miscarriage with amnio at 1:200 and the risk of miscarriage from chorionic villus sampling at 1:100. With this kind of uncertainty and risks these significant, they're not tests to be undertaken lightly.

I wonder how much risk to their own lives people would be willing to take in order to get a test result for a condition that is not, in any case, curable.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Out of curiosity, let me raise a question that Mrs. TMcD asked yesterday. If you had a four month old child with Downs, why would you want to spend your next several months parading around the country running for VP, with the chance that you'd be pretty busy for the next four years?

We're living in the post-feminism age, and I guess you don't get opportunities like this every day, especially if you're a first term Alaska governor. Sitting VPs can obviously get lots of child care help. From a practical standpoint, that job may even be less taxing than governor of Alaska. But isn't this the kind of decision that conservatives, especially the "values" crowd, routinely condemn from liberal women?

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Frances said...

Yes, I'll bet that some of the same people who defend Palin's choice criticized Elizabeth Edwards for her decision to campaign while she has small children and a fatal disease.

(Of course, there were other COMPELLING reasons why Elizabeth Edwards shouldn't have been out there campaigning for her husband.)

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger HeroicLife said...

Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely have made a conscious choice to have that child. As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the “family values” of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith. They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords.

Genuine moral virtues – such as integrity, honesty, and productivity are not useful as evidence of religious virtue. To the extent that their practical benefit is visible to everyone, they do not represent the special domain of religion. To demonstrate religious virtue, it is necessary to sacrifice authentic moral values in favor of “religious” values. The particular object of the sacrifice is not important – there is nothing particularly “biblical” about being prolife (the Christian bible just as easily supports the opposite position.) If Christian fundamentalists decided that cutting of one’s hand sufficed as proof of moral virtue, they would be wrong to do so, but not much more so than the numerous other ways that people find to be self-destructive.

What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses. One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty. But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child? If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?

 

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