Mercatonet has a story on the French doctor who discovered that a patient with Down’s had an extra chromosome at the 21st pair.
…The genetic diagnosis known as Trisomy 21 was born, establishing the first ever link between mental disability and a chromosome disorder — and heralding a new era in genetics.
It was a discovery of incalculable importance to people with the condition and their families — if only at first from a symbolic point of view. The embarrassing and misleading term "mongolism" was gradually retired (although it still crops up) and the term Down’s adopted after John Langdon Down who first described the syndrome.
But Lejeune’s contribution went beyond the scientific into the realm of what we might call "public relations" as he sought to open people’s eyes to the human dignity of those affected by the syndrome and their claim on our love and effort. With his trademark combination of precise observation, moral insight and poetry he once wrote:
|With their slightly slanting eyes, their little nose in a round face and their unfinished features, trisomic children are more child-like than other children. All children have short hands and short fingers; theirs are shorter. Their entire anatomy is more rounded, without any asperities or stiffness. Their ligaments, their muscles, are so supple that it adds a tender languor to their way of being. And this sweetness extends to their character: they are communicative and affectionate, they have a special charm which is easier to cherish than to describe. This is not to say that Trisomy 21 is a desirable condition. It is an implacable disease which deprives the child of that most precious gift handed down to us through genetic heredity: the full power of rational thought. This combination of a tragic chromosomic error and a naturally endearing nature, immediately shows what medicine is all about: hatred of disease and love of the diseased."|
If only doctors who are so quick to recommend abortion in these circumstances had the same understanding.
Earlier this month, Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois launched the process for his beatification.