Editor’s note. This comes to us from David G. Lejeune, the President of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA.
Today marks the anniversary of Dr. Jerome Lejeune’s passing 26 years ago. The namesake of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, Dr. Lejeune was a French geneticist who discovered the cause of Down syndrome in 1958 – a third chromosome on the 21st set of genes.
As I pause today to remember Dr. Lejeune, I’d like to take a moment to share about his life and legacy. I also ask that you keep his wife Birthe, who is a dear friend of mine, in your prayers as she battles a serious illness.
Dr. Lejeune wasn’t just distinguished by his extraordinary medical discoveries – he also catalyzed a seismic shift in societal attitudes about Down syndrome. Before his discovery, many people believed that Down syndrome was the fault of the parents. Having a child with Down syndrome was considered shameful, and most people with Down syndrome were institutionalized and failed to receive the medical care they needed.
Dr. Lejeune was an outspoken advocate for these individuals, both inside and outside the womb. His scientific discoveries made it unequivocally evident to him that “life has a very long history, but each of us has a very definite beginning – the moment of conception.” He truly was a voice for the voiceless!
During his lifetime, thousands of families from around the world came to him for help. He affirmed parents’ love for their children with Down syndrome and demonstrated that he truly cared for each of “these dear little ones.” He authentically lived out his favorite saying, which is near and dear to my heart: “Every patient is my brother.”