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November 17, 1989

The Choice

JAMA. 1989;262(19):2735. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430190119044

"I'm glad you called. There's a problem." For the rest of my life, I will remember those words. I was in the 12th week of my pregnancy and had just finished a routine obstetric visit. As I was leaving, it occurred to me to call the genetics clinic for the results of my chorionic villus sampling.

Five minutes later I was back in my doctor's office, saying words beyond comprehension: "The chromosomes are not normal." Close to collapse, I told him the specific diagnosis and that I couldn't go through with the pregnancy. Wait a minute, he answered, you need to think this over, discuss it with your husband. But a person reeling from shock, numbed by a sudden catastrophe, cannot think. I was afraid even to speak, afraid that if I said the words again I would lose control completely. When safely home, I called my husband. His stunned