History of Down Syndrome - Human and Civil Rights Timeline

A timeline that shows changes in human and civil rights related to Down Syndrome.

Historically in the United States, the majority of people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities were kept in inhumane institutions where they were deprived of education, healthcare and even plumbing.;xNLx;;xNLx;In the United States, until the 1980s and in some cases as late as the 1990s, the way in which people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities were treated represents a shameful chapter of inhumanity and discrimination in our country.;xNLx;;xNLx;The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of people with Down syndrome and to ensuring the atrocities endured by people with Down syndrome in the United States (and that continue in other countries today) are never forgotten and therefore never repeated.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities were a key target in the eugenics movement in the United States - which influenced Hitler’s first mass murders under the Aktion-T4 program in 1939. Through that program, Hitler murdered an estimated 200,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a large number being people with Down syndrome.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember up until 1984 doctors in the United States refused to provide lifesaving procedures to people with Down syndrome such as surgeries related to the heart. Even today, there are people with Down syndrome dying in their 30s or 40s simply because a doctor refused to perform the xxx heart surgery when they were infants.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember there were numerous unprosecuted cases wherein doctors and fathers conspired and told mothers of newborns with Down syndrome that their babies had died, when in fact, those babies were quickly and quietly placed in inhumane institutions.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities were systematically physically and sexually abused through forced sterilization – by 1981, more than 60,000 people with disabilities had been violated in this manner.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember there were doctors as late as the 1980s who categorized feeding a baby with Down syndrome as a “lifesaving procedure” and proceeded to starve babies to death with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities until all 50 state governors created legislation to ban this horrific practice.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important to remember children with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities living in institutions were infected en masse in experiments related to vaccine discovery.;xNLx;;xNLx;It is important for us to remember that our friends and family members with Down syndrome deserve fundamental human and civil rights. Only within this context can we prevent atrocities from surfacing again and prevent discrimination of all forms from happening now.;xNLx;;xNLx;The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through Research, Medical care, Education and Advocacy. Formally established in 2009, the Foundation’s primary focus is to support the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the United States committed solely to research and medical care for people with Down syndrome. Since Down syndrome is the least-funded genetic condition in the United States, fundraising and government advocacy to correct the alarming disparity of national funding for people with Down syndrome is a major goal.

Hitler suspends the Aktion T4 Program

"The Black Stork" is released

Indiana legalizes sterilization practices

Sir Francis Galton coins the term “eugenics”

Conscientious objectors move to deinstitutionalizing people with mental disabilities

Need seen for national parent-focused advocacy organization

Virginia is first state to establish institution for mentally ill

Mongoloid Development Council changes its name to the National Association for Down Syndrome

first legal rights group for people with disabilities in the U.S. founded

Johnson establishes Committee on Mental Retardation

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