March 14th, 2008
New legislations regarding IVF treatment have recently made it impossible for parents to choose an embryo with a genetic defect when a healthy one is available. Most people would regard this as an important and beneficial move but a recent case has sparked much controversy over the issue. A set of deaf parents, who see deafness as a cultural phenomenon rather than a true disability, want to have a deaf child despite being able to have a hearing child instead.
This is one of the few cases where the parents have preferred their child to have a disability than to not, and it has sparked outrage from both sides. Tomato Lichy and his partner, who already “thankfully” have a deaf child, argue that they will be able to connect better with their new child if it cannot hear – deafness, they say, comes with many beautiful cultural features such as deaf in-jokes and deaf-language. They argue that to refuse their right to have a deaf child would be discrimination, effectively saying that deaf people cannot have worthwhile lives. As Lichy says:
“The core issue is that the government is saying deaf people are not equal to hearing people. Despite the fact that over time we have seen more and more rights for disabled people they are now seeking to establish a legal principle that deaf people are inferior – and there may be more laws once this gap opens.”
For Lichy and his partner, the preference is so great that they would regard a hearing child as a disabled one. However, many have retaliated by saying that deliberately choosing a child who will face problems in life is morally condemnable. It cannot be discrimination because the argument is not that deaf children don’t have worthy lives but that hearing children have a higher potential for a better life. As chief executive Jackie Ballard of The Royal National Institute for Deaf People explains:
“Deafness is a disability and we have spent a long time campaigning to improve the lives of people who live with it. But it is certainly not a slight to the deaf to say it is better to bring a child who will face the least difficulty into the world, when there is a choice to be made.”
Personally, I agree and I think that to call hearing ability a disability is not only absurd but insulting to the majority of deaf people who do feel that their lack of hearing is a deficiency. Thankfully the Royal National Institute for Deaf People are also against Lichy’s plans. Why deliberately cause damage to a child without even giving it a chance of hearing? (no hearing child would feel “worse off”) The parents may feel that deafness has given them comparable substitutes, but how would they even know how good hearing is? At any rate, the argument is a slippery slope. What’s to stop parents who can’t walk now asking for a limbless child?