Deaf people want deaf babies; each to his own?
December 31, 2007
The UK’s Times Online reported last week that the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People said deaf parents should be allowed to screen their embryos so they can pick a deaf child over one that has all its senses intact. Jackie Ballard said couples would prefer to create a child who is effectively disabled, to fit in better with the family lifestyle. The idea is supported by organizations of crippled people as well as Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I grew up in a family of drunken and crippled people and I’m most comfortable having drunk crippled kids,” said Sam Spade, an alcoholic detective with a bad leg he got when he crashed while racing a fire truck for fun one day. “Now that I want kids I should be able to have one that’s genetically altered to be born with a bad leg like mine. I’d like that and believe it’s the right thing to do.”
Not everyone agrees that genetics should be used to create designer babies, crippled or otherwise. “We should continue to let random chance determine the sex and health of our kids and not try to change anything about them,” said Lucy Lu, an unknown Norwegian wrestler who would rather be an Asian actress. “That’s the way I’ve approached my career and it’s the way everyone should live their lives. The idea that we should try to influence the future in anyway is repulsive. I’m a big fan of randomness and deny the whole cause and effect thing.”
To create a “designer baby” using preimplantation genetic diagnosis, couples need to go through in vitro fertilization (IVF) even if they could conceive naturally. The embryos created are then genetically screened and normally only the healthy ones are implanted in the mother’s womb. Doctors are opposed to creating deaf babies. Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, medical director of the Bridge Centre, a clinic in London that screens embryos, said: “This would be an abuse of medical technology. Deafness is not the normal state, it is a disability. To deliberately create a deaf embryo would be contrary to the ethos of our society.”
But social activists say that not allowing deaf people or others with various mutations, to have children like themselves is discrimination and a violation of their civil rights. As genetic manipulation continues to gain greater capability at less cost, more and more people will be able to afford to build their children and other life forms the way that they want. Who will stop them, and should they be stopped?
Up next, Einstein or Frankenstein, you make the call.
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