March 1, 2024

Australia’s window onto exclusion of people with Down syndrome

Mother recalls her tears when she heard the news

Toni Mitchell and Joshy at the Royal Commission. Source: Council for Intellectual Disability/ Twitter @CIDvoice

After a number of scandals the Australian government set up a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability last year. It is now holding hearings across the country.

Some of the witnesses have complained about the way that doctors have treated their Down syndrome children.

For instance, Toni Mitchell, from Toowoomba in Queensland, told the inquiry in Sydney this week that her son had been devalued even before he was born. She recalled how devastated she was after a radiologist spotted that her son, Joshy, had Down syndrome.

“People were murmuring and I was still crying, and then finally he turned around said, 'here's your appointment for a termination', gave me a piece of paper and walked out,” Ms Mitchell said.

“It set the whole tone for Joshy's life because in that moment, they completely disallowed his life. They said he wasn't worth living.”

Ms Mitchell said abortion was never an option for her.

“People need to be open, they need to see you don't need to be perfect, disability is ok,” she told SBS News. “And that it makes our community richer with the different perspectives that people bring to it and the different experiences they have.”

“Personally, I love the way Joshy looks at life. I love his acceptance of life. I love the way he accepts people no matter what. I love the way he looks at the world around him,” she said.

“You ask him his favourite colour and it's rainbow. He doesn't just settle on one thing. He's very open to the world and I think the world needs to be more open to Joshy and his friends.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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