The difference between treatment and cure
A few months ago I briefly mentioned some research underway at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital that could eventually lead to treatments that could improve cognition in people with Down’s syndrome, or at least delay the decline of cognitive function.
The research has hit the headlines this week thanks to a New York Times post questioning the need for a “cure” for Down’s syndrome.
The NYT post concludes by asking “if there were a cure for your child that would fundamentally change who he is, would you welcome it?” It’s an interesting theoretical question, but one that is unlikely to be raised by the research.
As Dr. Ahmad Salehi, M.D., Ph.D., the lead researcher on the Stanford University study, noted in response to a similar question, “restoring a rather limited aspect of learning and memory in a mouse model of Down syndrome is far from being a cure”.
It also only addresses cognitive function, which is one of many potential effects of Down’s syndrome. Others, such as heart defects and thyroid problems, are already treated by medical science, Why would you not also treat cognitive ability, were that possible?
I do understand, however, why some parents would be wary of a theoretical cure. I previously mentioned, twice, that while I am in favour of using drugs to improve life for people with Down’s syndrome, gene therapy (or praying to remove the effects of Down’s syndrome in the latter example) feels like quite a different proposition as it raises questions about fundamentally changing the personality of the recipient.