Deaf parents could choose to have deaf children

Disabled parents may be given the right to choose to have disabled children when a new genetic screening test becomes widely available.

Disabled parents may be given the right to choose to have disabled children when a new genetic screening test becomes widely available.

The measure, being considered by government advisers, would allow deaf parents to decide to have deaf children on the basis that it might be in the child's interests to be born with the same disability as their parents.

The prospect is due to be raised today when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority meets to discuss the ethical implications of a technique that can distinguish between healthy and abnormal embryos in the test tube. One proposal is that, just as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) parents can select healthy embryos for implantation in the womb, mildly disabled parents should be given the same right to choose embryos affected by their own genetic disorder.

Critics of the proposals argue that wide-scale introduction of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) will raise the prospect of disadvantaged babies being born who will be deliberately chosen to be disabled for the benefit of their parents.

Supporters, however, argue that certain disabilities, such as deafness, are so mild that it could be in the long-term interests of the child to have them, so that they will share the same experiences as their affected parents.

Professor Allan Templeton, the chairman of a working group on PGD at the authority, said the issue had been raised by patient bodies, including those representing certain kinds of dwarfism, who believed that parents should be allowed to choose children who were more like themselves.

"But clearly there is a very real conflict between parental desires and the welfare of the child," said Professor Templeton, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Aberdeen University. "Opinions are pretty sharply divided between those who feel it can never be justified and those who feel it is an issue of parental choice.

"If parents are prepared to put themselves through PGD and choose to have affected embryos replaced for whatever reason, you'd have to consider why that was and not just write it off immediately," he said. "Is it reasonable? You can't answer that and neither can I, unless we find ourselves in that position."

The authority and the new Human Genetics Commission are processing the public responses they have received to a consultation document on PGD before the test becomes more widely available.

The consultation document accepts that some couples will want to use the test to ensure their child is disabled. "An example that is often quoted is that of a congenitally deaf couple who feel that a child with normal hearing would be alienated from their environment and that this would be harmful to both the child and the couple," the document says.

A spokeswoman for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People said some deaf couples were pleased they had had deaf children but there still needed to be more discussion about the ethics of allowing people to choose embryos with deafness genes.

The British Deaf Association is also debating the ethical problems of PGD, a spokesman said. "We're still making policy on this at the moment. It is a very sensitive issue," he said.

Although doctors have no right to insist that a woman carrying a disabled child should abort her foetus, PGD raises fresh concerns about whether it is right to establish a pregnancy knowing that the child will be born with a disorder.

"The situation is further complicated because, by law, the clinician responsible for the treatment involving the use of PGD must consider, prior to treatment, the welfare of any child that might be born," says the consultation document.

PGD involves taking a cell from an early IVF embryo and testing it for genetic disorders before replacing it into the womb. Only four IVF centres in Britain are licensed to use the technique and just 20 babies have been born by it. However, PGD is expected to become more widespread as the technique is further refined.

VIDEO
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers