Should eugenics become a “fundamental human right”?

Michael Cook

Should termination of Down syndrome foetuses be regarded as a fundamental human right? This is an issue which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently pondering. In the case of Kr?zmane vs. Latvia, the mother of a girl with Down syndrome alleges that she was denied a screening test for the condition when she was pregnant in 2001. She claims that this test is a necessary element of  “prenatal care” and that access is guaranteed by the fundamental right to respect for private and family life.

As often happens, the facts of the case are not completely straightforward. Ms Kr?zmane, who was 40 at the time, consulted a doctor during her pregnancy. The doctor told her to consult a specialist for a test but failed to follow up on this advice. For this negligence the doctor was fined. However, a subsequent police investigation found that Ms Kr?zmane had failed to keep her appointment with the specialist and had failed to inform her doctor that her eldest child also suffered from a congenital genetic disorder. After exhausting her legal options in Latvia, Ms Kr?zmane has turned to the European Court of Human Rights.

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