The Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People has weighed in on the controversy over the selection of deaf children for adopting deaf couples. The Institute supports the practice. However, there remains a greater debate over the decision of American parents to engineer a deaf child through artificial selection.
Jackie Ballard, a former Liberal Democrat MP, says that although the vast majority of deaf parents would want a child who has normal hearing, a small minority of couples would prefer to create a child who is effectively disabled, to fit in better with the family lifestyle.
The American couple created a baby with hearing disabilities by selecting a donor with generations of deafness in his family. It is only the latest in the debate over “designer babies.”
British advocates for the deaf would like the same ability to engineer such babies.
Francis Murphy, a leading advocate said: “If choice of embryos for implantation is to be given to citizens in general, and if hearing and other people are allowed to choose embryos that will be ‘like them’, sharing the same characteristics, language and culture, then we believe that deaf people should have the same right.”
It is a fascinating debate since biogenetic science has always strived to reduce disabilities, but would now be used to perpetuate such a disability. Of course, the issue of adopting a deaf baby is entirely understandable. The question of engineering a disability, however, relates to the right of the baby, if any, to be free of avoidable disabilities. Obviously, the baby cannot be heard in the debate over the intentional imposition of a disability. That creates a question of whether the state or court should be heard on the question through a guardian or other independent advocate. What makes this particularly difficult is that parents can natually engineer such disabilities in the selection of partners — or at least increase the likelihood of such a disability.
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