Denis Campbell reports the development of a non-invasive method for the genetic testing of unborn children, claiming the technology will save lives (Blood test for mothers could save lives of hundreds of unborn babies, researchers say, 10 August). He does not explain why the lives of unborn babies with disabilities are not considered.
It is not correct that "more than 90% of women with a Down's baby decide to have a termination". About 90% of the mothers who undergo amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling do choose to terminate babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome, but they have (presumably) chosen procedures that risk the lives of their unborn babies because they plan to terminate if given a confirmed diagnosis, so a high proportion of terminations is to be expected in this group. It is wrong to interpret it as 90% of all mothers. Many parents do not have such tests because they would not wish to terminate a baby with a diagnosed disability.
Overall, prenatal screening for Down's currently reduces live births by about 45%. Nearly 1,000 babies prenatally diagnosed with Down's are aborted each year in the UK and about 600 babies without diagnosed disabilities are lost after invasive tests encouraged by false positive results. However, trends towards child rearing later in life have increased the rate of conception of babies with Down's by about 50% in the past 50 years. So more babies with Down's are being born today than in the past.
Our National Health Service already encourages prenatal genetic selection against babies with identified health concerns and learning difficulties. The time has come for a full and public debate about where we cross the line between healthcare and eugenics.
Chief executive, Down Syndrome Education
You report that GPs are prescribing psychiatric drugs to women for anxiety and depression and that the drugs are, according to studies, causing defects such as malformed hearts (Antidepressant drugs can cause birth defects when given to pregnant women, 8 August).
Antidepressant drugs have been controversial for decades because of the adverse drug reactions associated with them. The public has been warned time and again that antidepressants can cause suicidal and violent behaviour, and neurological disorders, including disfiguring facial and body tics. Now birth defects are added to the list.
From the cradle to the grave, we are bombarded with information pushing us towards a chemical "fix" and antidepressant drugs continue to be prescribed based on psychiatry's disease model, the theory that a "brain-based chemical imbalance" causes "mental illness." This notion is no more than a myth. It is psychiatric wishful thinking.
National spokesperson, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (UK)
The Guardian, 11th August 200