Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Controversial new British law challenged by deaf community

New fertility legislation in Britain will make it illegal to implant embryos with any known genetic abnormality in invitro fertilization (IVF) treatments if those without the defect are available, the BBC reported. But a deaf couple is challenging the law by requesting an embryo that will be deaf.
The BBC reports: "The couple have become icons in a deaf movement which sees this impairment not as a disability but as the key to a rich culture which has its own language, history and traditions: a world deaf parents would naturally want to share with any offspring. "

"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," says Tomato Lichy, who with his partner wants to have a deaf child through IVF.

Of course, many others oppose the couple's quest, claiming that "deliberately bringing a child with a disability into the world when one without could be born verges on the morally repugnant."

Cathy Heffernan explains in an opinion column in The Guardian that obstacles aren't caused by deafness, but by society's unwillingness to fully accommodate the deaf community. "Yes, I've had plenty of obstacles in life," she writes, "but I see these as the result of a society built for people who can hear. Anything for deaf people comes as an afterthought after years of lobbying. TV didn't incorporate subtitles until the 70s. Fire alarms could easily all have a flashing light, but you have to ask for one. Sign language, like French, could be taught in schools. When it became as freely used as spoken language on Martha's Vineyard in the 19th century, deafness wasn't considered a disability. "