Dear Mr. Adams,

I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt.  I am going to assume that you wrote the article entitled Blood test for Down’s ‘could save 300 babies’ lives a year'” over a bottle of wine, late at night, thrashing it out to hit a deadline.  Surely, it is only in those circumstances that you could possibly have chosen such inappropriate wording [in the original article, this has now been changed] which makes this one of the most offensive articles I have ever had the misfortune to read.  You wrote with no thought to your audience, no thought to the families who might be reading it.  Families like my own. 

I find it deplorable that men like Professor Kypros Nicolaides exist in this world.  His project to “eradicate Down’s syndrome” doesn’t differ too much from Hitler’s attempts, however somehow his stab at modern eugenics is more palatable because the babies are being terminated in utero.

I would be utterly delighted if you reported that someone had been able to eradicate cancer.  That would be something to celebrate in my eyes, but to eradicate Down’s syndrome is to eradicate PEOPLE, human beings like my 2 year old daughter.

Individuals like you and Nicolaides are steering our society to become less accepting of my daughters condition.  My daughter who is here because my husband and I created her, in love, and because we want her to be here.  You have no idea how many families read your article and felt like you are making the choice for them… who is to say that a positive result would cause a family to terminate?  We didn’t.  Some families are capable of unconditional love; apparently this is an alien concept to you.  You think it’s positive that Nicolaides might “eradicate Down’s syndrome” which makes you no better than the man who is trying to rid this world of babies like mine.  The thing is, you make a sweeping assumption that all families feel the same as you, well they don’t.  Badly done. 

It would serve you well to choose your words a little more carefully next time.  An apology wouldn’t go amiss either.  My daughter deserves one, as do I, and so do all the other families who love an individual with Down’s syndrome.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Kingdon

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UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE – An apology, thank you Stephen!

Dear Mrs Kingdon,
Thank you for your email regarding my article about the maternal blood test for Down’s.
First and foremost, I would like to apologise.
I fully accept that the headline, the phrase about “eradicating” Down’s and as a result the piece in general were offensive to you and others.
It was certainly not my intention to offend; my intention was to draw attention to the fact that the test had the potential to prevent 300 miscarriages a year.
As I am sure you appreciate, those averted miscarriages would include children without Down’s and those with it.
However, there is no getting around the fact that the purpose of the test is to reduce the numbers of children being born with Down’s, and that would mean an increase in the number of babies with Down’s – who were otherwise perfectly healthy – being aborted.
I should have pointed that out in the article, and for that too I apologise.
Sometimes journalists are required to research and write articles in a very short period of time, and that was the case with this piece.
On this occasion that meant I focused too much on understanding the science, and gave too much attention to Prof Nicolaides.
I did not appreciate at the time of writing the moral questions the test raises, and that some find the whole business of testing for genetic conditions abhorrent, and should have sought a response from those who know people with Down’s.
It was not my intention to denigrate those with Down’s, and fully appreciate they can lead lives that are just as happy and fulfilled as others. I understand the hurt the piece could have caused them, their families and friends.
Although it is too late to rectify the article in the paper itself, I have amended the online version.
I have reflected seriously on this matter since receiving your complaint, and those of others, and hope that I have learnt from it.
 
Yours sincerely,
Stephen Adams