Shortland Street storyline labelled 'insensitive' by Down syndrome community

goss 01/08/2018

Members of New Zealand's Down syndrome community are appalled by Shortland Street's newest "insensitive and ignorant" storyline.

But the show's broadcaster TVNZ and production company South Pacific Pictures are defending the show.

In the soap opera, lead character Chris Warner and his partner Zoe Carlson discover their unborn baby is likely to have Down syndrome.

In the show, Warner says the genetic disorder will mean the child suffers severe medical issues that "will crush" Carlson.

"The word 'abortion' was used straight away and that's very confronting and offending to people with Down syndrome, and their parents," says Kim Porthouse, a spokesperson for the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA) told Newshub.

"These inflammatory statements are incredibly ill-informed and coming from a doctor it just reinforces a lot of the prejudice that having a child with Down syndrome is a burden," says Mrs Porthouse.

A joint statement from TVNZ and South Pacific Pictures says the show is "known for tackling a range of challenging issues that face New Zealanders today, and we know this is one of them."

"We realise that not everyone will agree with every choice we make, but we always appreciate when people come to us to share their feedback."

The statement also says that the storyline will evolve further and should not be judged just from the initial statements by Warner.

But the NZDSA says many people with Down syndrome are Shortland Street fans and they've already been hurt.

"They are offended," says Mrs Porthouse.

"A lot of our young people with Down syndrome absolutely love Shortland Street and suddenly one of their heroes tells them their families would have been better off without them."

See more from this story on Newshub.