This Catholic doctor changed the world’s view of Down syndrome

The postulator for the cause of canonization of Jérôme Lejeune, Aude Dugast, highlighted the heroic character of the virtues of the French geneticist, as well as his spiritual and intellectual legacy that changed the world view of Down syndrome.

Born on June 13, 1926 in Montrouge (France), Dr. Lejeune discovered in 1958 the trisomy of chromosomal pair 21, responsible for Down syndrome.

The discovery was published in the journal Nature in 1959. Since then Lejeune devoted all his efforts to defend these children against attempts to instrumentalize his discovery to justify the abortion of children with this condition.

This stance of Dr. Lejeune defending the right to life of children with Down syndrome made his candidacy for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1970 not successful, despite the significance of his discovery.

In an interview with National Catholic Register, Dugast noted that the virtue of the French geneticist’s faith is obvious, “he never doubted and his faith grew in tandem with his intelligence and scientific knowledge.”

“His whole being was oriented towards the search for truth,” he stressed. “As a result, he used his scientific and spiritual intelligence to discover the mysteries of the created world with the great merit of being able to transmit it to the world in simple words and with great humility,” he added.

The postulator noted that the capabilities of God’s servant were combined with “a heroic charity because he had an unconditional love for his patients that he demonstrated when it came to the abortion of children with Down syndrome.”

“He did not follow the spirit of the times. His morale was safe. And that’s heroic because he knew he was going to get in a lot of trouble for doing it, he knew it. But he said that he was the natural defender of these children because they could not defend themselves, “he remarked.

Dugast indicated that the geneticist remained “incredibly calm and gentle” despite the fact that the doors were closed, and it was thanks to this that he was recognized “as the true defender of life. This is the mark of his heroic nature ”.

The postulator added that the Catholic geneticist saw “in the patient a person made in the image of God” and stressed that this look “of love and hope transforms the patient and the parents.”

“I have many testimonials from parents who were overwhelmed by the way Lejeune welcomed their son and looked at him. It helped them look at their disabled son with renewed love, ”she added.

He also indicated that justice was the “great cardinal virtue of Lejeune”, who fought “for the rights of all unborn children to be recognized” and was not afraid to “sacrifice his own career” for this cause.

Dugast indicated that this decision caused the servant of God to lose many things in the process, such as the Nobel Prize, for which he was nominated twice; but nothing could divert him from what he “saw as the truth of the intelligence and the truth of the heart” about the value of life.

“In our postmodern world, the pressure is enormous, and if you are not free inside, if you are not willing to lose everything to follow your conscience, you are always in danger of compromising,” he lamented.

The postulator indicated that Lejeune’s scientific legacy revolutionized the world of genetics and the lives of families with children with disabilities.

“We don’t realize it today, but prior to this discovery in 1958, families who had a child with Down syndrome, or a ‘Mongoloid’ child as it was called at the time, were lost, not to mention the way the society looked to its children and therefore to them ”, he added.

Dugast regretted that families with children with disabilities at that time were ostracized and living in hiding, where other daughters could not marry.

“By showing that it was a chromosomal disease, Lejeune revolutionized society’s view of families and restored their dignity. It freed them from the weight of suspicion and doom, “he remarked.

The postulator remarked that the servant of God made genetics become a discipline “in its own right, he created the first cytogenetic certificates, he was the first professor of the first academic chair of genetics in France. He was also dean of the Paris Medical University ”.

“It is said that he was the father of modern genetics. All the geneticists of France for 30 years were his students. It had a huge impact, not only in France, but also in the United States and around the world ”, he stressed.

But his impact was also on the spiritual plane, where the servant of God managed to demonstrate that “faith and science go hand in hand, that to be a great scientist there is no need to put faith aside”, and to be a venerable man, with heroic virtues, “intelligence must not be neglected.”

“The intelligence of Jérôme Lejeune is truly at the heart of his holiness,” he added.

Dugast also highlighted the pivotal role of Birthe Lejeune, the wife of the French geneticist, whom he described as “more than a right hand man. She was a total part of him. “

“Jérôme Lejeune would not have been the man we know if Mrs. Lejeune had not been by his side, even if only on a very simple level. Mrs. Lejeune was a kind of pure life force, and Jérôme was a scientist, a poet, who was also very concrete, but did not have the life force of Mrs. Lejeune ”, he added.

Finally, Dugast stressed that it is the simplicity of Lejeune’s holiness that built him up the most, because the servant of God “was not born a saint, he became one.”

“He took the faith of his baptism and the gospel seriously. He was carried away by the circumstances of life, by his encounters with these children. And when other circumstances of life asked him to betray this medical commitment, of the Hippocratic oath, he said no, I am a doctor and it is proof of intelligence that an embryo is a human being that a doctor must treat ”, he added.

The postulator indicated that Lejeune, speaking “truthfully, converted the doctors. And this is what moved me the most and made me reflect ”.

“It is wonderful to see that this great scientist oriented his whole life according to the words of Jesus in the Gospel: ‘Everything you did for one of these my little brothers, you did for me’ [Mateo 25:40]. He often ended his lectures with this call to the Gospel. It is the compass of his life ”, he concluded.

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This Catholic doctor changed the world’s view of Down syndrome