, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 25-31

Deafness, Genetics and Dysgenics

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Abstract

It has been argued by some authors that our reaction to deaf parents who choose deafness for their children ought to be compassion, not condemnation. Although I agree with the reasoning proposed I suggest that this practice could be regarded as unethical. In this article, I shall use the term “dysgenic” as a culturally imposed genetic selection not to achieve any improvement of the human person but to select genetic traits that are commonly accepted as a disabling condition by the majority of the social matrix; in short as a handicap. As in eugenics, dysgenics can be achieved in a positive and a negative way. Positive dysgenics intends to increase the overall number of people with a particular genetic trait. Marriage between deaf people or conceiving deaf children through reproductive technology are examples of positive dysgenics. Negative dysgenics can be obtained through careful prenatal or pre-implantation selection and abortion (or discarding) of normal embryos and foetuses. Only deaf children would be allowed to live. If dysgenics is seen as a programmed genetic intervention that undesirably shapes the human condition – like deliberately creating deaf or dwarf people – the professionals involved in reproductive technologies should answer the question if this should be an accepted ethical practice because the basic human right to an open future is violated.