NICHOLAS Dunne's article (August 3) on tests during pregnancy was answered by an excellent letter (August 10) on the pointlessness of such tests unless you agree with abortion. When you conceive you stick your neck out as one in 40 babies will have some defect, however tiny, and many handicaps are received during labour and delivery.
No one can be guaranteed a child perfect in mind and body, and those of us who have already a Down's syndrome child know we are among the lucky ones. Our 19 year old son is just back from his second trip to Lourdes, accompanying an elder brother, but working as a porter/helper, especially with wheel-chair bound visitors. While he was away an acquaintance asked our youngest if we prayed for him to be cured. She indignantly replied "we couldn't want him to be any different. He is the nicest person in the whole family".
Mary Eyre Salisbury, Wilts I BELIEVE that all human beings are unique persons made in the image and likeness of God. We are not "goods" simply being produced in a technologically dominated world to which quality control can be applied.
The article by Nicholas Dunne (August 3) quite rightly states that the pre-natal tests "are now almost a routine part of pregnancy" and it is this fact that I find sinister. It implies that not all human beings reach an acceptable standard. Because of this, the opportunity should be given to their parents to terminate these substandard lives, thereby also disposing of any possible suffering such lives would bring them.
Parents who do not follow such a course "seem distant figures — rare individuals whose qualities are far and above those of most of us."
Though my husband and 1 should be flattered by being raised and placed on such a pedestal we are only saddened by the delusion. We have parented eight children, two of whom are mentally handicapped. We do not perceive ourselves as having had a lifetime of self-sacrifice by caring for our two disabled daughters. We are a very ordinary mum and dad who would go unnoticed in a crowd.
What we can share with you, though, is the fact of the distinct joy we have all experienced through their presence among us, and the enrichment of all our lives. Our two mentally disabled daughters are only handicapped by those who will not see their true dignity and worth. They do not suffer, and any suffering we have undergone has been caused by those who hold negative rejecting attitudes towards them, this to the extent of denying life — saving medical treatment to one of them. Attitudes within society need to change, not the lives of babies end.
Celeste Hinds Ilkley, Yorks RE Nicholas Dunne's article (August 3): as parents of a Down's child my wife and I would like to see a far more positive attitude towards the Down's person. People are far too ready to condone abortion on grounds of handicap. Abnormality in itself is never justification for eliminating the handicapped person and we should recognise this for what it is — barbarism. We have got to see that pre-natal screening and all it involves is a dilemma that only causes greater dilemmas.
It may sound very basic but it is not possible to have a humanitarian attitude to the handicapped/disabled person unless you support the struggle to secure the equal right to life of all people be they handicapped or normal.
The guarantee of the handicapped's humanity does not rest only on present conditions but on the fact that they too shall share in a supernatural eternity. If the handicapped are not "the least of these" whom we are to serve, the long tradition of christian mercy and compassion becomes merely a bad practical joke. The anti-christian nature of the "quality of life" ethic has in the name of compassion been used to determine who should live or who should die.
Every individual is unique with lots of personal qualities that can bring an added dimension to life. It is doubtful if any recognisable group of people do less harm than Down's people. They are unlikely to be involved in any kind of offensive or unsocial behaviour. Society benefits positively from them, not financially, but in terms of a dimension of life that is sympathetic and open, often bringing out the best in us.
Contrary to much popular opinion the entrance into a family of a handicapped person can be an extraordinarily positive experience. The argument that disability and unhappiness go hand in hand is not true. No one can tell how they are going to cope and to give up before even trying is capitulation to a secular utilitarian ethic that wants to forget that all life is sacred.
What about rewards and satisfaction in the life of those who work with and succeed in the rehabiliation of handicapped children? Strong character, compassion, deeper understanding of another's burdens, creativity and deeper family bonds — all of these attributes result from this socalled burden of raising a child who is less than perfect.
Ian Brown Bolton Lancs