Down Syndrome (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NKJV)

Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is caused by an extra chromosome 21. Instead of the usual two copies of the chromosome, there are three copies, hence trisomy. Many years ago, medical researchers discovered that Down syndrome adults developed signs of early dementia, often dying in their fourth or fifth decade of life. When the brains were examined, researchers were surprised to find the characteristic changes of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research demonstrated that a gene for a protein known as amyloid resides on chromosome 21. In both Alzheimer patients and Down syndrome, the brains have disorganized clumps of amyloid protein which interferes with normal neural transmissions and ultimately results in dementia.

Research money for Down syndrome has dwindled. What was once a robust effort to understand how to solve the cognitive defects of Down syndrome has now shifted to efforts to prevent Down syndrome by improving prenatal detection to facilitate an early abortion. In fact, many other genetic abnormalities have suffered a decline in research funding for similar reasons. 

It is one of the great ironies of life and medicine that so much insight into the origins and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases have come because of Down syndrome patients. What other medical breakthroughs could be made from other genetic conditions by preserving and cherishing life rather than by ending it? God created man in His image. Although sin has separated us from the life we could have had, we will someday be restored by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every life that is born is special. God knows each of us from the moment of conception, nothing is hidden from Him.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 (NKJV)

My wife and I opted for an amniocentesis when blood tests revealed risk factors for Down syndrome. We chose the amniocentesis not because we were seeking to end our son’s life but because we wanted to better prepare if Down syndrome was the diagnosis. On Christmas eve 2002, we found out the diagnosis. We were devastated but trusted in God’s provision and providence. We quickly named our son Ian because we wanted to dignify his identity. Ian was born a month early and he spent two months in the NICU. During this period, a myriad of complications set in including seizures, a transient leukemia, and abnormal blood calcium levels. His muscle tone was so weak he could barely latch on to a nipple. When he came home, the therapy started. There were weekly physical and occupational therapies. Ian struggled just to lift his head. But God blessed Ian with a determined spirit and he was soon catching up to his milestones.

Seeking ways to prevent Down syndrome comes at the horrific cost of murdering an unborn child. But we camouflage the process under sterile terms as “improving prenatal detection”.  Medical science has achieved remarkable successes but there is a dark side. God truly uses the weak things of the world to shame the mighty and strong. A weak baby who could barely hold up his head has grown into a vibrant and strong boy who loves to play basketball, do math, and write stories. Last year, Ian learned to ride a bike. It is a typical milestone for many children but when we look back over how far God has brought him, we can only marvel at God’s grace and provisions. Ian daily challenges us to trust God with all things.

We may justify our actions in life because it is convenient or rationalize that it is for the greater good of society. But God does not accept shades of gray when it comes to human life. Every life, unborn or born is precious. And God will manifest His glory through the weak of the world, in spite of our worst efforts to prevent Him.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “ Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."
John 9:1-3 (NKJV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the example that we should all follow. If we take the time to allow God’s works to be manifest in everyone’s lives, we will begin to understand the magnificent compassion that God showers upon His creation.

Trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.