December 6, 2021

Iceland: nearly 100% of Down syndrome babies terminated

“Heavy-handed genetic counseling” to blame, says leading local geneticist

Nearly 100% of Down syndrome babies are aborted in Iceland, according to a CBS News special report – probably the highest in the world. The rate in the US is 67 percent (1995-2011); in France 77% (2015); and in Denmark 98% (2015).

Some women who have refused to have prenatal screening and others whose screening test returned a false negative continue to give birth to  Down syndrome children, but this sum up only to 1 or 2 a year. The others are all aborted.

This is happening, as CBSN observes, even though “Many people born with Down syndrome can live full, healthy lives, with an average lifespan of around 60 years.”  

“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” says Kari Stefansson, the founder of deCODE Genetics, a world-renowned genetics database. “And I don't think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You're having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”

He went on to say, “I don't think there's anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

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