A World without Bioethicists: On Sally Phillip’s a World Without Down’s.

Last night BBC2 broadcast a documentary entitled ‘A World Without Down’s?’ Even if you did not see the programme itself, you may have heard about it on the radio, read some of the commentary published over the past week or spotted it on twitter under hash tag #worldwithoutDown’s. It was one of these advanced trails, specifically the presenter’s appearance on Frank Skinner’s On Demand, that first drew my attention to the programme. Here Sally Philips talks about Peter Singer’s appearance on Hardtalk and, whilst she is hardly alone in doing so, I felt that she misunderstood what Singer has to say. As a result I intended to watch the documentary to see which bioethicists appeared and if their views were represented accurately.

Despite the programme consisting of Philips speaking with various people involved with this issue – including doctors, scientists, individuals with Down’s syndrome and their parents, those who run support groups and one brave women who had terminated a pregnancy following a positive test for Down’s – she did not actually speak to a bioethicist or, indeed, explicitly discuss any bioethical ideas [edit: although, see addendum at the foot of this post]. Thus, whilst one could think that this documentary was about a bioethical issue – prenatal testing and screening for Down’s Syndrome - there was not any real discussion of the matter from a bioethical perspective.