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March 16, 2022

Catholic Medical Association Expresses Concern After WHO Statement Calls Trisomy 21 Preventable ‘Birth Defect’

Philadelphia, PA—March 16, 2022—Catholic Medical Association expressed concern after the World Health Organization stated publicly that Trisomy 21, commonly referred to as Down Syndrome, is a “severe birth defect” which can be “prevented.”

“The statement made by WHO represents a major need for greater respect, dignity, and awareness for people living with Trisomy 21,” said Craig Treptow, M.D., President of CMA.

People born with Trisomy 21 have three copies of the 21st chromosome.

“The only way to ‘prevent’ Trisomy 21 is to deny that person the right to be born,” added Dr. Treptow.

WHO later corrected and apologized for its statement, saying in part “WHO has edited its original post which, in conflating two distinct messages, unintentionally implied that Down syndrome was preventable through antenatal and newborn care.”

The initial statement by WHO, and the message it conveyed- is deeply flawed morally, ethically, and medically. 

Trisomy 21, unlike a heart defect, for example, cannot be treated through antenatal care nor intervention. 

CMA believes in the inherent dignity of every person from the moment of conception. Persons with Trisomy 21 have the same value as each of us and the sanctity of life must be defended and preserved. 

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