Stories about: Down syndrome

Early prenatal test continues to raise ethical questions and draw media attention

Grace

CBS This Morning recently took a look at a new test that will detect birth abnormalities at an earlier stage in a woman’s pregnancy. The new test, called the MaterniT21, can be administered at just 10 weeks and is safer and more accurate than current tests of a similar nature.

Detecting birth abnormalities helps families and health care workers prepare for the child and figure out the best ways to treat and support him once born, but there are also concerns about how such testing could affect birth rates of children with identifiable medical conditions.

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, a clinical fellow in genetics at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program, was interviewed in the CBS piece and has been following the MaterniT21 story since it first surfaced. Also featured in the story is an adorable young patient of Skotko’s named Grace McLaughlin, as well as her mother Melanie, who discusses how having Grace has changed her life.

Both Skotko and the McLaughlins were also featured in a recent article on prenatal testing in TIME magazine, which explores what these types of tests could mean for future generations.

Click here for the option to read the full article.

To read more on Skotko’s take on MaterniT21 visit Thriving’s first blog on the subject from January 2011.

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Are medical communities the new marketing demographic?

Have you heard about the bald Barbie movement? It’s a grassroots, digital campaign asking Mattel to make a version of the doll without her trademark golden locks to benefit children with illness. According to the group’s Facebook page, which has gained more than 130,000 fans in less than a month, bald Barbie would let “children suffering cancer, alopecia and any other illness that causes them to lose their hair, feel just as beautiful as the dolls they play with.”

Regardless of how people feel about the plastic fashion icon—she’s been around for more than half a century but still seems to be a very polarizing figure; often because of her figure—the online support for bald Barbie is undeniable. Many people seem ready to overlook any issues they may have had with Barbie’s build and stereotyped past in order to focus on her potential as a cancer survival spokes doll. Here’s just a slight sample of the thousands of messages her online fans are sharing with each other:

I will keep posting all the great things about this Bald Barbie God Bless the work you are doing

I’ve forwarded it and wish I could do more. How can I help from Brazil?

Amazing idea! I re-posted a messages about a week ago that said…why don’t they make a hairless Barbie named hope dressed in pink with all proceeds going to help to cure cancer. I had no idea it was actually a work in progress! I 100% support this. I think it would make children fighting this feel good. Anything to help. And why not make dolls with other problems?! Spreading information and helping the cause or even a cure for the cause…what a Wonderful idea!

And it’s not just parents online that like the idea. Cori Liptak, PhD, a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Program at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center was recently interviewed about her support for the doll.

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Children’s in the news: Brian Skotko writes Op-Ed for USA Today

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program, recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for USA Today, where he addresses concerns raised by a new, easy to administer blood test that can screen for Down syndrome in-utero. In the piece, Skotko wonders what effect the simple and affordable test will have on the birth rates of children with Down syndrome and discusses his own research that shows that a majority of families living with a Down syndrome family member cite the experience as positive.

In mid-October, pregnancy as we know it forever changed in America. The company Sequenom announced that with a simple blood draw at 10 weeks of gestation, a pregnant woman can now learn with near 99% accuracy whether her fetus has Down syndrome. …

With these new tests, however, America also confronts expectant parents with a parade of uncomfortable questions. Currently, only 2% of pregnant women are pursuing chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis. Now, with the simpler blood test, the percentage of women who may choose to undergo testing will grow, if not skyrocket. As the doctors phone the news of the results, more and more expectant couples will be frantically asking: What does it mean to have a child with Down syndrome? And do we really want to find out?

My research colleagues Sue Levine, Rick Goldstein and I recently surveyed more than 3,000 families nationwide who have a member with Down syndrome. The positive results might surprise some: 99% of parents say that they truly love their son or daughter with Down syndrome; 88% of brothers and sisters say that they are better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome; and people with Down syndrome, themselves, spoke up, too: 99% are happy with their lives, and 97% like who they are. My sister with Down syndrome certainly does. (I often wonder: How many Americans can say the same?)

But will this matter? …

To read the rest of Skotko’s opinion piece, please click here.

To see more of Skotko’s writing on Thriving, please browse the many blog posts he’s written as an advocate for people with Down syndrome.

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Let’s get real about Down syndrome

by Brian Skotko, physician in Children’s Hospital Boston Down Syndrome Program

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP

In mere months, pregnant American women might be able to learn if their fetuses have Down syndrome with a simple blood test. The test will be perfectly safe, eliminating the small, but real, chance of miscarriage that comes with our current diagnostic options. If these tests do become a routine part of obstetric care, thousands of expectant parents will be receiving a phone call from their healthcare provider each year with this message: your fetus has Down syndrome.

That will be a panicked moment, according to women studied in previous research. But, what should healthcare professionals say about Down syndrome? What does it really mean to have Down syndrome? Six years ago, Sue Levine, Dr. Rick Goldstein, and I set out to find the answer to that question. Rather than let Rahm Emmanuel or GQ Magazine have the final word on what life is like with Down syndrome, we spoke to the people who truly understand.

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