In a recent report on genome analysis of ancient remains found in Irish burial sites, one ground-breaking finding received little attention.
In the tests conducted on the remains of over 30 people from the Poulnabrone burial site in the Burren in Clare, the earliest proven example of a skeleton of a person with Down Syndrome was discovered. It was an infant who died sometime around 5,500 years ago.
Prior to this, the earliest generally cited discovery was of a 5 – 7 year old child with the condition who was buried close to the Abbey of St. John-des-Vignes in northeastern France some 1,500 years ago. Another archaeologist, Czarnetzi, claimed in 2003 to have found the skeleton of a person with Down Syndrome aged between 18 and 20 in a 2,550 year old German site.
What is fascinating about the discoveries, and it is worth bearing in mind that we are referring to a relatively small number especially from thousands of years ago, is that it casts new light on how people with Downs were treated by the communities into which they were born.
The received wisdom is that “many” such infants were killed or abandoned. The evidence, albeit scarce, would not support such a supposition. Indeed, there is a large amount of evidence up until late pre modern times that while people with intellectual and physical differences were regarded as different, that was not accepted as a reason to kill them.
The Irish infant had been breast fed which indicates that the mother and larger community were not intending to kill him. The same applies to the medieval child who had a full Christian burial in exactly the same location and with the same burial ritual as others in the cemetery. The German woman lived into early adulthood.
Had she lived in Germany in the 1930s under the Nazis she would have been murdered. Indeed, she would have been considered by the early 20th century eugenics movement – a direct forerunner in America of Planned Parenthood – as someone who was to be forcibly sterilized and preferably die.
The Nazis of 1930s Germany and the overt racists of 1920s America have been replaced by sanctimonious doctors who think they are helping to improve the human species, or just morally indifferent ones who rate lifestyle issues higher than a human person.
The abortion rate for diagnosed Down Syndrome is 90% in Britain, a fact that was screamed down by the Yes side in our referendum on abortion. Iceland now has no babies being born with Down Syndrome because it kills them all before birth, an accomplishment that was described by liberals as Iceland having “cured” Down Syndrome.
Actress Patricia Heaton, who some of you will know as Frankie in The Middle, responded to a CBS report that Iceland had “eliminated” Down Syndrome by pointing out that what they actually meant was “They’re just killing everybody who has it.”
In the Netherlands they have moved beyond aborting people with Downs. When euthanasia was legalised in 2002 it was found that in total disregard for the alleged requirement of consent on the part of the person to be killed, that doctors and parents were killing infants who were incapable of giving consent.
That led to the issuing of the Groningen Protocol which did away with such petty details standing in the way of basically murdering another person. Now, a “defective” child can be killed with the consent of the parents on the basis of whatever Doctor thinks best, except for what’s best for the victim obviously.
As a critical academic review of the Dutch practice bluntly stated: “Killing babies is not within the scope of medical practise for pediatricians …. The taking of innocent life is never a moral act.”
Unless you happen to be Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, who openly advocates the killing of disabled infants after birth. Ironically he is one of the chief ideologists of animal liberation. Which is no reflection on your dog or cat.
The congenitally bitter Richard Dawkins claimed that knowingly giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome “might actually be immoral,” if the aim of human life is to “increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering.”
Buddhism, which along with Catholicism is the only major religion to unequivocally oppose abortion, ridicules the notion that the objective of human existence is to attain superficial “happiness” especially if at the expense of others, as was also stated by Kant.
There is resistance to the amorality of killing inconvenient persons whether before or after birth. In February, Heidi Crowther, who has Down Syndrome, began a court action in London to prevent the abortion of the “seriously handicapped” up until birth.
We can also look back into history and our own tradition for evidence that such amorality was not always unthinkingly accepted because it fits with some zeitgeist which wins by default because as eloquently shown in Jonathon Van Maren’s new book Patriots, a lot of people could not be bothered thinking about the implications of what they are being told to do by a deracinated elite.
Our pre-conquest Brehon laws enshrined the duty of the community to protect and care for those with intellectual disabilities who were described as “daoine le dia” – people with God.
The boy with Down Syndrome discovered at Poulnabrone lived his short life long before those laws were written down, but the same respect for life was present. We have gone backwards since then it seems.