New prenatal screening tests: “Down syndrome becomes the frontier to eugenics”

Publié le : 17 May 2013

 In an article published in the daily La Croix, Jean-Marie Le Méné, president of the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, reacts to the statement issued by the National Consultative Committee on Ethics (CCNE) on the new prenatal tests capable notably of screening at a very early stage for Down syndrome (Gènéthique press review from 22nd to 26th of April 2013). Jean-Marie Le Méné explains that by limiting itself to the technical aspects alone, the CCNE "has chosen its camp, that of techno-science and the market" to the detriment of the ethical concerns. This leads him to question the role of this institution.

Two "unpardonable" errors of reasoning made by this Committee are denounced by the president of the Fondation Lejeune.         
Firstly, "[the CCNE] states that the new test will change nothing in an eradication system that is already solidly established!" (95% of foetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome are eliminated). Instead of applying "the principle of precaution that requires, at the minimum, the suspension of the system," the CCNE approves a "more effective test which it admits will result in further decreasing the number of births with Down syndrome." But because "society has already made an obnoxious choice with the current screening system" the CCNE considers that the "improvement" of the present screening system "does not raise a new ethical problem," and even describes it as "ethical progress" as it will limit "the risks of the death of a healthy child linked to amniocentesis."
Secondly, the CCNE "applies a different judgement" depending on whether or not the diagnosed disease is Down syndrome. While the Committee commits an ethical denial concerning Down syndrome, it worries about other serious and incurable diseases that can be diagnosed by these new tests and hence "justifying a medical termination of pregnancy." Jean-Marie Le Méné criticises the CCNE which "arbitrarily creates two different situations for Down syndrome and for the other diseases. Down syndrome becomes the frontier to eugenics: up to and including Down syndrome there is no eugenics involved."
Pierre le Coz, Vice-Chairman of the CCNE until 2012, had already pointed out: "We live in a world regulated by a technical process […] which produces such dazzling breakthroughs that we can only agree to them. That is why everything that is possible will come about." The president of the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune concludes: "in the light of such a lucid confession, the CCNE ought to be disbanded. To prevent it from delivering an ethical approval to firms […] that are waiting with impatience to reap the dividends of eugenics.

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