Down Syndrome Has Almost Been Eliminated In Iceland, And People’s Reactions Are Heartbreaking

A CBSN: ‘After The Assignment’ segment entitled ‘Disappearing Down’ reported that only 2 children with Down Syndrome are born in Iceland each year. As one doctor put it in the short segment, Down syndrome in Iceland has essentially been ‘eradicated.’

The story discusses the ethics of the situation and has drawn a vocal response online, with various people discussing whether or not Icelandic doctors should be giving people the option to terminate fetuses with Down syndrome.

Since the early 2000s, The National University Hospital of Iceland, Landspítali, has offered prenatal genetic screening for pregnant women.

The genetic screening allows doctors to determine whether or not a fetus has Down syndrome.

According to medical staff at Landspítali, about 80 to 85% of women in Iceland want to have the prenatal genetic screening.

But before any decisions are made in regards to the termination of the pregnancy, the hospital staff try to do as much neutral counseling as possible.

“We try to do as much neutral counseling as possible, but some people would say that just offering the test is pointing you towards a certain direction,” said the head of Landspítali’s Prenatal Diagnosis Unit Hulda Hjartardottir.

In the U.S., it is estimated that 67% of women chose to terminate their pregnancy once they find a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

According to the National University Hospital of Iceland, where 70% of the countries babies are born, in Iceland that number is nearly at 100%.

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