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alzheimers

A Nation That Forgot Mercy

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One of the laws of the universe has to do with sowing and reaping.  This law applies to societies, cultures, and countries as much as it does to individuals.  Take for example, some research taking place at the Memory Disorders clinic at UC San Diego which is seeking to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.  But first, a few details and statistics about this dreadful disease.

Baby boomers are expected to suffer from the onset of this disease like no other generation before them, as the number one risk factor is increasing age and Americans are living longer than any previous generation.   An estimated 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s.  It is the sixth leading cause of death in America and the disease can affect a person’s mental health for upwards of twenty years.  One in three Americans dies with a form of dementia.

America has one of the highest rates in the world for the onset of Alzheimer’s.  For instance, Americans are ten times more likely than Latin Americans to die from the disease and the disease is progressing.  Between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths increased by 68%, while other top killers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer, were declining.  By the year 2050, unless a cure is found, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple to 16 million.

This disease also has the dubious distinction of being the most costly disease in America to treat.  Direct costs?  $214 billion per year and rising.  The disease disproportionately affects women.  Women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer as breast cancer.

Now, about that research at UCSD.  A substance called amyloid, produced by chromosome 21, has been discovered to be associated with Alzheimer’s.  Chromosome 21 is familiar to many in our society because the presence of an extra copy of this chromosome is the cause of Down syndrome.  In fact, people with Down syndrome, according to researchers at UCSD, represent the world’s largest population predisposed to getting Alzheimer’s.  The director of the program indicates that 100% of all individuals with Down syndrome have the pathology of Alzheimer’s in their brain by the time they reach age 40.  As such, the Memory Disorders Clinic is seeking out people afflicted with Down syndrome in order to test them with experimental drugs in their effort to seek a cure for Alzheimer’s.

The problem with this research paradigm has to do with the fact that 90% of all in utero diagnosis of Down syndrome results in the termination of pregnancy!   We are witness to a genocide and virtually nobody in our society is giving this a second thought.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Recently, Richard Dawkins, an atheist who calls himself a “bioethicist” tweeted that any woman who is pregnant with a baby diagnosed with Down Syndrome should abort it and try again.  He went so far as to say it would be immoral to bring such a baby into this world if you have a choice.  Conversely, Sarah Palin, perhaps the most famous American mother of a child with Down Syndrome, invited Dawkins to come meet her son Trig in order to witness what she considers to be a very unique form of absolute beauty.

Our society obviously still suffers from the ills of the spirit of the eugenics movement in our search for human perfection.  In this case, we need to consider whether the cost of ridding our society of Down Syndrome by eliminating the victims of the same, will come at the expense of developing a cure for Alzheimer’s?

First published in the Santa Barbara News Press



 

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