December 10, 2023

Debating designer deafness

A small number of people in the deaf community would use prenatal genetic testing or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to ensure that they have a deaf child, according to a news feature in Nature. Although the notion might horrify the non-hearing-impaired, many deaf people view their condition not as a handicap, but as a rich and vibrant culture. Some might fear that they could not share this way of life with a hearing child.

A British genetics counsellor, Anna Middleton, has studied attitudes of deaf people to prenatal testing. Although her results were inconclusive, she did find that a few deaf people would consider aborting a child if it could hear. Geneticists are also becoming more willing to help deaf people make such a reproductive choice. According to a survey, more than a third of geneticists in the US, Italy, Russia, Cuba and Israel would assist a deaf couple perform the necessary tests, although the figure in Norway was just 1%.