Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 25–31 | Cite as

Deafness, Genetics and Dysgenics

  • Rui NunesEmail author
Scientific Contribution


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.


deafness dysgenics eugenics genetics repro-genetics 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Director of the Department of Bioethics of the School of MedicineUniversity of OportoPortoPortugal

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