Outrage as Royal College ‘puts price’ on Down’s lives

Families of children with Down’s syndrome have reacted furiously to doctors’ recommendations to undertake a cost/benefit analysis on the lives of people with the condition.

Doctors want results to be used to decide how widely a new test for Down’s syndrome should be rolled out for pregnant women.

The highly controversial Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) has already been slammed as a mechanism for screening out babies with Down’s syndrome.


The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) made the cost comment in response to a consultation on NIPT held by the UK National Screening Committee.

The test is expected to be offered only to pregnant women considered to be at high risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome, in order to keep costs down.

Terrifying and deeply disturbing

Wendy O’ Carroll

But the RCOG said: “If the decision has been made primarily on cost grounds, then a more rigorous economic analysis has to be made that includes the lifetime costs of caring for children and adults with Down’s syndrome.”

It added: “Such an economic analysis may (or may not) suggest that testing for all is cost-effective.”

Utterly shocking

The recommendations have been criticised by several campaign groups, including the Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation.

Dr Elizabeth Corcoran, spokeswomen for the Foundation, said: “It has always been our fear that these types of calculations and economic analyses go on behind closed doors between policy makers, but here it is in black and white.

“It is utterly shocking that in this day and age someone can put a cost value on someone’s life just because they have a disability. It is worse still that this comes from a respected Royal College that is a professional beacon for doctors.”

Deeply disturbing

Wendy O’Carroll’s son has Down’s syndrome; she was outraged by the Royal College’s recommendation.

Unethical and immoral

Paul Critchlow

“The cold and calculated argument which happily balances human life against possible medical costs is one I find both terrifying and deeply disturbing on so many levels.”

Paul Critchlow, whose daughter also has Down’s syndrome said he was “appalled at the suggestion that the lifetime cost of caring for children and adults with Down’s should be a factor in determining whether or not they should even be born.”

Unethical and immoral

He added: “By suggesting that lifetime cost should be factored in, is frankly a step too far and leads us into the murky world of eugenics – who deserves to live and what that life should look like.

“It is unethical and immoral to even consider the attempt to calculate the lifetime cost of any human being and then measure it against the likely benefit of that person’s life.”

Statistics show that one in every 1,000 babies in the UK is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

In England and Wales, recent figures show that 92 per cent of babies who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in the womb are aborted.

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