6 Mar 2013

Down syndrome group wants professor to resign

7:26 pm on 6 March 2013

The University of Otago is standing by one of its bioethics professors after an advocacy group for people with Down syndrome demanded he resign over his paper about pre-natal testing.

Saving Downs says the article by Gareth Jones published in the New Zealand Medical Journal is highly offensive and reinforces negative stereotypes.

The article explores a more advanced type of screening for the genetic condition. Professor Jones states that, in some cases, the perceived disadvantages resulting from a Down syndrome pregnancy may outweigh the perceived good from the child's life.

Mike Sullivan, a spokesperson for Saving Downs, said on Wednesday that people with Down syndrome lead good lives and it is inappropriate for a leading academic to suggest that they are a burden.

But John McMillan, director of Otago University's bioethics centre, said the paper goes to great lengths to demonstrate the value of all human beings.

He said Professor Jones points out that the vast majority of people with Down syndrome feel that they are capable and have self-worth.

Professor McMillan says the centre aims to promote information and healthy discussion.