12 March, 2008

Deaf parents chosing deaf babies

The background to this is that some deaf parents have demanded the right, when using treatments such as IVF to select for deafness in their child. Their arguments tend to focus around the idea that the deaf community, of which they are part, cannot be wholly welcoming to a hearing person so, as a result of being able to hear, the child will be excluded from their parents' community and that this is bad.

Hmmmm, well, instinctively, being able to select for deafness seems wrong. Whilst a deaf child is no doubt morally, legally and ethically equal with a hearing child, the fact remains that they will be acting under some level of disability in their interactions for the rest of their life.

If their deafness is not so severe that a hearing aid can help then, then what is the point of selecting for deafness in the first place when technology has helped them hear? If they are so profoundly deaf that a hearing aid cannot help them then they will miss out on a large part of the human experience because their interaction with other people is automatically limited. If a parent in a wheelchair wished their child to be born unable to walk because it would help them engage better with the wheel-chaired community, we would consider it a travesty. How is deafness different?

The one exception would be that many deaf people are able to lip read. Reading the background of the deaf groups mentioned in the article, many of these groups oppose lip reading on the grounds that in some way it's 'selling out' from being deaf. Hmmmmm.

If two deaf parents have a hearing child, the child will no doubt learn sign-language from his parents and therefore be able to engage in the deaf community. The child will also be able to fully engage in the non-deaf community. This child would seen to be in a good position in being able to be part of both communities as he wishes. What right do the parent's have to deliberately and artificially restrict this choice?


Jak Marshall said...

Where did the notion of having this 'right' come from? The subject of genetic engineering is a bit of a touchy subject at the best of times but surely the child has some sort of 'right' not to have deafness forced upon them? Perhaps not legally but what sort of medical professional would knowingly make an unborn child deaf? Goes against their practices surely?

Alex said...

The number of things that people claim are "rights" is rediculous. I remember at the most recent Presidents Cup someone said that being able to watch trials on TV was a "human right".