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Rob Slane: Iceland and Denmark flunk the test of a civilised society


Here’s one of those moral dilemmas. There are three people in a room. They all have the same medical condition and are in fact the last people alive who have it. It is by no means life threatening, nor is it contagious, and its main symptoms are physical growth delays and varying degrees of intellectual disability. There is, however, currently no cure for it.

Someone enters the room and tells you that they have found a cure, which they are going to give you. They hand you a gun. All you have to do, they tell you, is pull the trigger three times and you will have completely eradicated the condition from planet Earth. What would you do?

Not hard, is it? Yet imagine someone carrying out the killing and then triumphantly proclaiming that they had indeed eradicated the condition. You would be appalled at the Hitlerian cruelty. Appalled at the callous disregard for a fellow creature made in the Imago Dei. But perhaps even more than that, you’d surely be sick to the stomach to hear them acting like they had found a cure, rather than having simply killed three human beings to achieve their ends. You don’t cure disease by killing people, do you?

Apparently you do. A few years back, Iceland became the first “civilised Western” country to become a Down’s Syndrome-free zone, and Denmark is close to becoming the second. Back in 2015, CPH Post (formerly The Copenhagen Post), Denmark’s only English-language newspaper, ran a piece with the headline:

“Down’s Syndrome heading for extinction in Denmark.”

This must rank as one of the most misleading headlines in history. If you didn’t know better, you would think that Denmark’s doctors had found a cure for Down’s Syndrome. Except they haven’t. What they have in fact done is not made Down’s Syndrome almost extinct, but rather people with Down’s Syndrome. The headline should have read: “People with Down’s Syndrome heading for extinction in Denmark”. Doesn’t sound quite as medical, does it, unless you mean in the Josef Mengele sense of the word!

Yet this drive to eradicate Down’s Syndrome by eradicating people with Down’s Syndrome is apparently going down rather well in Denmark. According to the article, 98 per cent of pregnant women who were revealed to be carrying an unborn child with Down’s Syndrome had him or her aborted, and 60 per cent of Danes see it as a “positive development” that there are considerably fewer Down’s Syndrome children being born. Positive development? Ridding Denmark of Down’s  Syndrome by curing it might be considered a positive development. But ridding Denmark of Down’s Syndrome by killing those with the condition? That’s a positive development?

Here’s what Britain’s biggest funder of abortions, the NHS, says about people with Down’s Syndrome:

“People with Down’s Syndrome can have a good quality of life. With support from their family and others, many people are able to get jobs and live fairly independently.”

So 60 per cent of Danes believe that the eradication from their country of “people who can have a good quality of life…can get jobs and live fairly independently” by killing them is a good thing? Have they ever seen the joy Down’s Syndrome people bring to those around them? Do they care? Have they any heart?

Not so long ago, Down’s Syndrome could not be detected in the womb. Now that it can, 98 per cent of Down’s Syndrome children are aborted in Denmark, over 90 per cent in Britain, and – most shockingly – every single Down’s Syndrome child in Iceland. The real test of the character of any civilisation is how it treats its weakest and most helpless members. If it loves them and seeks to help them, it should be praised. If it seeks cures to treat their conditions, great. But if it seeks to extinguish the people who have the condition from its midst, and then pats itself on the back at having eradicated the condition, what grounds do we have for calling it civilised?

(Image: Emily Walker)

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Rob Slane
Rob Slane
Rob is married to Alina, and they live with their six children in Salisbury. He blogs regularly at

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