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Australia rejects family with Down son

WASHINGTON (BP)–An Australian government agency has denied a German doctor’s request for permanent residency because his 13-year-old son has Down syndrome.

Bernhard Moeller and his family moved to Australia two years ago for him to practice in a rural area of Victoria state that has a shortage of physicians.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship rejected Moeller’s application for permanent residency because his son, Lukas, “did not meet the health requirement,” according to the department. An immigration department spokesman said Oct. 30 the rejection came because a medical official had determined Lukas’ condition “was likely to result in a significant and ongoing cost to the Australian community,” the Associated Press reported.

“This is not discrimination,” the spokesman said, according to AP. “A disability in itself is not grounds for failing the health requirement — it is a question of the cost implications to the community.”

American bioethics specialist Wesley Smith refused to accept the department’s claim.

“Of course it is discrimination…. If you think not, let’s try a mind experiment: Would Australia ever deny permanent residence to a family whose child had HIV? The outcry would be heard in the [United] States,” Smith wrote on his weblog.

“This is shameful eugenics, morally akin in my view to laws in the USA that barred disfavored nationalities and Jews in the years running up to World War II.

“This eugenic tide is flowing, not ebbing, and people with Down [syndrome] are prime targets; of eugenic abortion, of medical neglect after birth, of infanticide, of health care rationing, of futile care theory, and now of refused immigration,” Smith said. “Such are the consequences of rejecting human exceptionalism and embracing the bigotry intrinsic to the ‘quality of life’ ethic.”

Moeller said Oct. 31 he would appeal the decision.

“We like to live here, we have settled in well, we are welcomed by the community here and we don’t want to give up just because the federal government doesn’t welcome my son,” Moeller said, according to AP.

Down syndrome normally results when a person has three copies, rather than two, of chromosome 21. The condition typically is marked by mental and physical impairments. People with Down syndrome have a wide range of abilities.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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