Mother welcomes easier diagnosis

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 12:00am

The mother of a child with Down's syndrome yesterday welcomed the prospect of a safe and cost-effective new test to diagnose the condition, but warned it would not make parents' decisions any easier.

'When I was pregnant with my first child there was no simple test to determine Down's syndrome,' says Junko Sommerau, the mother of a 16-year-old boy with the condition. 'I did not know Pol was affected by it until after he was born - I never had the choice.'

Mrs Sommerau, who lives in Happy Valley, says even with the benefit of hindsight she does not know what she would have done if she had had the choice. 'It's a very difficult thing. I love my son. Pol is so lovely and we have the best times together. But we are lucky because his condition is not as severe as in some other cases.'

Pol's brother Gian, 15, and sister Heidi, 12, were very understanding of him and the family had received a lot of support, she said. But she is not sure what lies in store for her son once he finishes school at 19 - the cut-off age at South Island School's 'learning support' classes.

'He has very limited opportunities in Hong Kong, which is a huge concern,' she said. 'All I would say to parents faced with the decision of having a Down's syndrome child, is that they have to be prepared to face the realities of what that means.'

The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association says it welcomes a safe test because it could result in more women being screened. 'If the test shows there is a problem, the parents can think about terminating the pregnancy,' says Sylvia Li Siu-yin, the association's director.

Father Robert Ng, a teacher at the Catholic Holy Spirit Seminary, said there was no objection to the test itself.

'It only becomes a moral issue when the test results are positive and when the parents have to make a decision,' he said. 'From the Church's point of view, one should not abort the foetus simply because it has a defect.'