I spent the morning in a bit of a blind fury because my beloved Today show once again gave a platform to two medical professionals who inaccurately and irresponsibly reported on Down syndrome and what it means to a family. Enough!

In a segment about infertility, IVF and new technology that makes prenatal testing noninvasive and possible earlier in gestation, Dr. Jamie A. Grifo of the NYU Fertility Center joined NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman on this morning's Today show.

You can... lower the miscarriage rate and avoid the heartbreak of getting to 16 weeks and finding out your baby [has] Down's and making a tough decisions [sic] that patients make. Some keep, some don't. It's challenging.

In discussing the benefits of new prenatal tests, Dr. Grifo remarked, "The reason IVF fails is embryos are abnormal. An abnormal number of different chromosomes. Because it looks good under the microscope doesn't make a pregnancy always.

"If you can identify them, you can improve the outcome of IVF, and put back one healthy embryo, and lower the miscarriage rate and avoid the heartbreak of getting to 16 weeks and finding out your baby [has] Downs and making a tough decisions [sic] that patients make. Some keep, some don't. It's challenging."

Dr. Snyderman went on to say, "You want one or two [embryos implanted], and you want to pick them as brilliantly as possible. If you know that Mother Nature is not going to be [a] good host to the bad ones and you can figure that out before you implant them, this is a huge step forward."

Why Dr. Grifo is wrong

First, a simple language correction: The condition is called Down syndrome and is named after Dr. John Langdon Down. (Damn him for not having the last name "Super!") Therefore, it's inaccurate to refer to the condition as "Downs."

Many babies with Down syndrome are born without any medical complications and go on to live long, happy and productive lives.

Second, an embryo with Down syndrome should not be considered "unhealthy." In fact, many babies with Down syndrome are born without any medical complications and go on to live long, happy and productive lives. They may be more predisposed to certain health conditions, but so are those of us whose parents battle obesity, diabetes, alcoholism or any number of medical conditions that can be passed down.

My child is my heart, not my heartbreak

CharlieFinally and most egregiously, learning an unborn child has Down syndrome may, in fact, be heartbreaking for some parents — but for many others, while the discovery can be unexpected and challenging because of the lack of information available, having a child with Down syndrome is anything but heartbreaking.

My son, Charlie, is three years old and delights me every day. He has Down syndrome. He's a smart, funny, loving, stubborn, frustrating and whiney toddler who finds new ways to delay bedtime, new ways to enrage his younger sister and new ways to make me roar with laughter daily.

Where is that characterization in these medical professionals' assessments? Where is the sense of journalistic responsibility to report on all sides of a situation?

The truth about Down syndrome

"Prenatal decisions about Down syndrome present profound and deeply personal challenges to expectant parents," says Dr. Brian Skotko of Massachusetts General Hospital's Down syndrome program in his blog. "But for the first time, data about real families is available and can be considered by couples when they receive the diagnosis."

Mark Leach, J.D., M.A. (Bioethics), is a regular commentator, presenter and blogger on Down syndrome prenatal testing. He shared his reaction to the segment.

The medical expert says women should use technology to select 'brilliantly,' which suggests to select against Down syndrome.

"The Today show says it's not trying to scare women about waiting to have children, but then words like 'risk' and 'danger zone' are used to describe the increasing chance for Down syndrome," Leach says. "The medical expert says women should use technology to select 'brilliantly,' which suggests to select against Down syndrome.

"At the same time, Today show anchors and reporters have all done stories featuring the great lives [that] people with Down syndrome and their families are leading.

"I can guarantee the Today show would talk about prenatal testing differently if they included a person with Down syndrome on the panel or even on the set. Unfortunately, they are making it easier to exclude them with their ignorant and discriminatory remarks about prenatal issues."

Dr. Grifo responds

I reached out to both Dr. Snyderman and Dr. Grifo. Dr. Grifo responded with this email (which several other parents received, as well):

"I am sorry if any comments I made sounded insensitive or judgmental. That was not my intent. I have very close friends who have raised a child with Down syndrome and Matthew is part of our life as well. He is a delightful human being and a pleasure to be around.

"It takes a special person to be a parent of a child with this syndrome and my close friends are that type of person as I am sure you are as well.

"Some individuals choose not to have a child with an extra copy of chromosome 21 and that is their choice not mine. Most people find out their child has trisomy 21 when they are 12 – 16 weeks pregnant which is difficult. Our technique gives parents the option of not having a pregnancy with this chromosomal complex. We offer it as an option for family building and do not believe in making choices for patients. We believe in giving them options."

Meh. I wish he believed in giving well-balanced options. Also, I'm not special; I'm lucky.

I'm not special;
I'm lucky

Dr. Snyderman responds — sort of

Dr. Snyderman did not respond to my requests for comment on past remarks, but a producer with NBC sent this message:

"Nancy's intention is always to respect the sensitivities of our viewers when discussing science and medicine, and no one on the team — most especially Nancy — would ever want to hurt or offend those watching. She takes this issue in particular to heart as her nephew has Down Syndrome. That he graduated this June from a mainstream school is a source of pride for her whole family, so she absolutely understands what a special gift these kids are to their families."

The news that Dr. Snyderman has a family connection to someone with Down syndrome shocked me. Earlier today, her characterization of embryos that test positive for Down syndrome as "bad ones" left me almost speechless.

Well, not really.

Dr. Snyderman, you're held to a higher standard. If you can't say anything balanced, please don't say anything at all.

Read more about parenting a child with Down syndrome

The truth about my child with Down syndrome
3 Best lessons from my 3-year-old with Down syndrome
Having a sibling with Down syndrome

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