April 12, 2024

Some doctors “offensive” towards Down syndrome infants

 Most doctors treat the birth of a Down syndrome baby as bad news when communicating a diagnosis to mothers, according to research from Harvard Medical School published in the journal Pediatrics. They tend to ignore these children’s potential and fail to put parents in touch with support groups. "Doctors have gotten better over time, but it’s been a very slow change, and they’ve really gone from terrible to just bad," says the author, Brian Stotko. Mr Stotko is a medical student who has a sister with Down Syndrome and who has written a book on the condition. "Finding out a diagnosis of Down syndrome doe not have to be a horrible process. In fact, the mothers in the study explain how physicians can make it a positive process."

Dr Allen Crocker, the director of the Down syndrome program at Children’s Hospital in Boston, says that Stotko’s findings support his own experience. "Physicians have consistently been inadequate and incomplete, and, on occasion, offensive," he says.

After a cross-cultural study which Stotko did in Spain, he says that mothers have many suggestions about how to break the news tactfully and sensitively. "Their suggestions are not revolutionary, costly, or difficult to implement," he says. "In fact, they are rather embarrassing reminders on how uncivilised some health care professionals have become or remained."