Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Most Dangerous Man

As a society, we have invested billions in medical research to alleviate or prevent the chromosomal anomalies responsible for the premature deaths or physical impairment of countless citizens.

“The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) currently recommends screening all pregnancies for fetal chromosomal anomalies, including Down syndrome.”

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum would have us ignore the advances made in genetic screening and return to a darker time. Santorum has made a number of shocking statements on critical health and social issues. None more troubling than his position on prenatal testing to identify chromosomal abnormalities and ameliorate their potential impact on the quality of life for those affected.

"One of the mandates (of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society." Santorum speaking at a Christian Alliance luncheon in Columbus.

There are several troubling issues in Santorum’s comments. Why provide free or low cost prenatal testing? Could it be to help save millions of families with little or no health care insurance the despair of not being able to provide the medical and developmental resources required to raise a Down syndrome child to an acceptable level of self-sufficiency? It’s clear that Mr. Santorum, with his generous congressional retirement and federal health care insurance, is insensitive to the anguish of parents unable to properly care for a developmentally disabled child.

Mean and median medical costs for children 0 to 4 years of age with Down syndrome were 12 to 13 times higher than for children without Down syndrome. (Research Participation Program at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Medical management, home environment, education, and vocational training can significantly affect the level of functioning of children and adolescents with Down syndrome and facilitate their transition to adulthood. (American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Genetics)

The other troubling issue is his concern over “…. cull[ing] the ranks of the disabled in our society.” Our success in managing certain chromosomal anomalies like Down’s syndrome, both medically and developmentally, overshadows the poor prognosis for chromosomal anomalies, like anencephaly, having far more severe consequences.

Mr. Santorum wants to block government intrusion into our lives except where it involves personal freedoms like reproductive choice. Santorum could be a very dangerous man were it not for his lack of intellectual depth.


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