Life or Death Dilemma for Parents | Action Medical Research

Life or Death Dilemma for Parents

29 April 1999
An amazing 30% of adults in Britain say they would consider an abortion if they discovered their unborn baby was affected by a serious inherited disease, according to a recent MORI poll commissioned by Action Research, one of the UK’s leading medical research charities. The poll also found that one in five adults say they would not even try for children if they knew there was a chance of passing a serious inherited disease to their child. The survey coincides with the launch of Paddington’s Suitcase Challenge - the charity’s national campaign to help Paddington Bear raise £1 million for research into children’s diseases. Members of the public were asked to consider what they would do if they knew that through having a child, a serious inherited disease like muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis could be passed on to their baby. · 21% said they would not even try for children in these circumstances. · 30% said they would still try for children but would be likely to request an abortion if their unborn baby were found to be affected with a serious inherited disease. · In all, 52% of the public said they would try for a baby. Only 13% said they were unlikely to have a termination if their baby were found to be affected. · 9% said they would try for children but not request a test. Commenting on the survey, Action Research’s Communications Director, John Grounds said: ``Every year, this agonising choice is faced by thousands of parents who know there is a chance of passing on a disease to their children. If they decide to take the risk, and the baby is found to be carrying the disease, they must then decide whether to continue or terminate the pregnancy.’’ He added: ``Whilst we do not yet have all the answers, we already know that certain complications can be identified and treated at different stages of pregnancy and birth. Further medical research to diagnose and understand other conditions will bring such solutions even closer. Traumatic decisions about whether or not to embark upon or continue with a pregnancy may then become less frequent for many potential parents.’’ Action Research funded the initial studies which suggested that by taking folic acid supplements before and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, women can substantially reduce the risk of their unborn child having spina bifida. A new study funded by Action Research which may go on to benefit mothers and their unborn child is looking into obstetric cholestasis. This is a disease of pregnancy which can cause fetal distress, prematurity and even stillbirth. The reasons for this are unknown but they may be due to raised bile acid levels, which are found in affected mothers and their babies. A team of researchers in the UK will investigate treatment and look at the way the placenta transports bile acids to see if this is abnormal in this condition. Other research projects funded by the charity include novel therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which may lead to new or better treatments after babies are born. A further project focuses on a group of rare metabolic diseases (glycosphingolipidoses) including Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s, Fabry and Sandhoff’s diseases, all of which are largely untreatable at present. Action Research doctors are assessing the feasibility of a new drug which could be given to children from birth. For further information and interview opportunities, please contact Victoria Heaton in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541. Those available for an immediate interview are the charity’s Director General Anne Luther, Communications Director John Grounds and Dr Catherine Williamson. Notes for Editors: The national medical research charity, Action Research, is dedicated to preventing and treating disease and disability by funding vital medical research. Founded in 1952 by Duncan Guthrie, Action Research is one of the UK’s leading medical research charities. We support research into a wide range of conditions, benefiting all age groups. We are currently funding around 160 projects throughout the UK; a total commitment in excess of £14 million. As a charity which has been at the forefront of medical research for nearly 50 years, our support has been crucial in the development of life-saving polio and rubella vaccines, the artificial hip operation, the use of ultrasound scans in pregnancy and the use of folic acid to prevent spina bifida. Current grants include support for research into meningitis, E.coli, osteoporosis, cot death, facial reconstruction, incontinence and epilepsy. MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,978 (male and female) adults aged 16 plus between 5 -9 February 1999. All interviews were face to face and in-home, and were conducted across 164 sampling points throughout Great Britain. For further survey details please contact Michele Corrado or Kay Wright at MORI tel 0171 928 5955.
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