Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72 (3) August 2022

Down’s syndrome: Blessing or not?

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Dr Paravin ThevathasanI have looked after people with Down’s syndrome for more than twenty years. Having a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome does not begin to define who they are. One, whom I shall call “Becky”, is quite remarkable: fiercely independent, always keen to express her point of view and never complaining of her lot in life. Seemingly everyone in her village knows her. She has been doing voluntary work in a charity shop for many years.

I met her parents several years ago. They were very keen to integrate Becky in her local community. The mother told me that she and her husband regarded Becky as a blessing. This was at a time when many people with a learning disability were having hospital care.

Over the years, I have come across some families that have been torn apart after having a child with a learning disability. But I have come across many, many more who are utterly committed to looking after their disabled son or daughter. Each and every one of them, bring unique gifts to their families and friends. It is both an inspiration and a real privilege to work with people with Down’s syndrome and also their families.

The amazing thing about Becky is that she is over sixty years of age. She is one of many. Twenty years ago, it was not common to see people with Down's syndrome of that age.

In this issue we publish three little articles about people with Down’s including one about General de Gaulle’s daughter Anne. There is also a remarkable quote from Professor Lejeune, who discovered the chromosomal cause of Down’s syndrome.

There has never been so much potential for people with Down's syndrome than at present. Their greatest hurdle is to be given the opportunity to be born.

Dr Thevasathan is a Consultant working with people with learning disabilities.