The Plight of Persons with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is not a Disease-Chile Supreme Court Rules

The supreme court in Chile passed a judgement indicating that Down Syndrome is not a disease and thus, a person cannot be deprived of coverage of the “Isapre” [Health Private Insurers] on the grounds of this reason.

A press statement by Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility María Soledad Cisternas Reyes on 19 June 2020 read that  “an individual with Down syndrome cannot be classified as sick, since their condition is a differentiation in their genetic makeup that gives rise to one more variant within the natural and characteristic diversity of human nature, but which in no case can place them in the category of pathological, and even less in a position of impairment of their dignity, in which they must be considered under conditions of equality, and even more so in the legal field and in the full acquisition and enjoyment of their rights”. Denying him coverage in his health care sets up a situation of discrimination.”

Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21. Genetic chromosome 21 disorder causes developmental and intellectual delays. Some of the characteristics of down’s syndrome include: intellectual disability, a distinct facial appearance, and developmental delays. It may also be associated with thyroid or heart disease.

This judgement could result to a negative selection in relation to persons with Down Syndrome considering them “sick” and hence their rights to receive all supports for the maintenance of life. It may even extend its impacts to other persons with disabilities whose situations are also at risk of exclusion such as the diversity of the autistic spectrum or cerebral palsy.

The judgement closes all doubts, restoring the rule of law and the due protection to the affected person. It becomes a precedent for all the courts in Chile, an international example and a powerful signal for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. The question is what is the plight of persons with disabilities and especially those in need of medical attention frequently? Such matters should be reviewed on a global scale so that Persons with Disabilities do no have to face any form of discrimination or neglect by their own governments.

By: Linzer Kibebe

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