02 June 2008

Down Syndrome and Incest

It seems that Channel Seven in Australia has caused a bit of furore as one of its programs, All Saints -- a medical drama, has suggested that there is a causal link between incest and down syndrome. This apparently went so far as to allude to the fact that all children of incestuous relationships were likely to be down syndrome. I must confess I have not watched the program and I am merely commenting on the reports I have read. I get to watch All Saints in Jakarta on Australia Network if I want to and I have to say I have not watched an episode yet.

I am also not a medical doctor. So I had to research a little about down syndrome before I felt comfortable commenting in any way, shape, or form.

From my very brief amount of research I have found that down syndrome is a chromosomal error. Simply, you are supposed to have 46 chromosomes, 23 from your mother and 23 from your father. however, somewhere in the miracle of life you end up with 47 and you are then categorized as being down syndrome. There is nothing to suggest that incest plays a role in promoting this error in chromosomes to occur.

If this is in fact the case, I am surprised that a show dealing with medicine and by all accounts employing a consultant doctor would allow this kind of assertion to enter into the mainstream.

It is already being reported that children with down syndrome and their siblings are being taunted and bullied as being inbred. This is sad!

I have know a few down syndrome kids in my life, not many, but I have always found them to be great company, to be fun, and to be so much more giving than those of us who have been "lucky" enough to get 46 and not 47 chromosomes. I have learned much more from those friendships and acquaintances than I think they have ever learned from me.

If Channel Seven has aired what it is alleged to have aired then it needs to do something about it. This is a backward step and reverses the great amount of good work done by down syndrome advocates over many years. And for what? Ratings?

People with down syndrome are still people! They can and do live productive lives and in many cases more productive lives than those of us who have not been born with the same challenges.

Just another RAB rant! No apologies though! The picture above is a screen capture from the offending episode! I am not an expert on own syndrome or on television ethics, so this is just me expressing my opinion (and I have many)! Criticism, constructive preferred, is always welcome!


rimafauzi said...

Of course people with down syndrome are people, in most cases they are better people than the usual. I know two people with down syndrome and they can fully live their life (one has a job at the local fast food chain here) and I have never seen them be spiteful or talk bad about someone.

But as for incest, even between cousins, it just reeks of ick for me. I have a colleague here who is married to her own cousin, (their fathers are brothers, an absolute no-no in Islam - their religion, but she kept on telling me it's ok in their religion. As if I didn't know.. pfft)
Thankfully their two kids are ok, no syndrome of anything as far as I can see, good looking, smart and talented.
So at least the theory linking incest with down syndrome isn't all true..

Rob Baiton said...

I was not really commenting on the incest thing and the ick factor.

I am from a much more pragmatic philosophy on this one in that too much incest is certainly going to narrow the gene pool! The other point is that there are enough fish in the sea that you do not need to be marrying your brothers, sisters, cousins or whatever.

The point on people with down syndrome being people was a comment on how we as people view others we consider to be less than us for whatever reason. I have always felt like punching the person in the face that belittles a person with a challenge like down syndrome.

But, I have one of the sharpest and most cutting tongues in the business (which I so rarely let out of the cage now -- and am yet to do so in any of my blog entries) so I just do some slice and dice on the humiliation front making the protagonist look like a real dill!

Maybe I am getting softer as I get older!

GJ said...

From my limited experience with Down's Syndrome people(nephew), they 47th chromosome must remove all evil from the persons nature. As all I have met, have been the most loving and caring individuals even if a little cheeky at times.

On the TV caper I bet the "consulting Doctor" has bugger all say on anything at all on what goes into the scripts. More likely is "How do you spell scalpel, Doc??"

Jakartass said...

Rob (and others), I think you'll love these links.

Ben Goldacre has a weekly column in the Guardian a weekly column in the Guardian and a website, both called Bad Science.

He debunks all kinds of, erm, bad science, is moved to tears by the beauty of blogs because "criticising activities and ideas, of all things, with a passion for the truth, should never be a dangerous hobby", and has come across a paper, published in 2007, which suggests that folk with Down's Syndrome and Asians have very similar characteristics.

For example, "Down persons during waiting periods, when they get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting down, reminding us of the 'squatting' position ... They remain in this position for several minutes and only to rest themselves. This position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are waiting at a bus stop, for instance, or while they are chatting."

And "Down subjects adore having several dishes displayed on the table, and have a propensity for food which is rich in monosodium glutamate."

Incidentally, Down's Syndrome is named after John Langdon Down who, in 1866, wrote his classic "Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots". This paper was the first to describe Down syndrome (which Down called "mongolism") and in it, the author explained that different forms of genetic disorder were, in fact, evolutionary regressions to what he viewed as the less advanced, non-white forms of humanity.

Rob Baiton said...


I cannot let this one pass. So, I am going to cut and paste the bad science article (with credit of course)...

How bizarre that the paper is from 2007. I am reading it (as attached in the bad science article) and thinking, among other things, are tehse fellas serious or what?

muebles madrid said...

It can't truly work, I think this way.