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Choosing Deafness with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: An Ethical Way to Carry on a Cultural Bloodline?


These words were written by ethicist Jonathan Glover in his paper “Future People, Disability and Screening” in 1992. Whereas screening and choosing for a disability remained a theoretical possibility 16 years ago, it has now become reality. In 2006, Susannah Baruch and colleagues at John Hopkins University published a survey of 190 American preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) clinics, and found that 3% reported having the intentional use of PGD “to select an embryo for the presence of a disability.” Even before, in 2002, a controversy was generated by the case of Candace A. McCullough and Sharon M. Duchesneau, a lesbian and deaf couple from Maryland who set out to have a deaf child (then, Gauvin) by intentionally soliciting a deaf sperm donor.

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3. Spriggs M. Lesbian couple create a child who is deaf like them. Journal of Medical Ethics 2002;28(5):283.

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13. Glover J. Choosing Children. Genes, Disability, and Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2006:7–8.

14. See note 10, World Health Organization 2001.

15. See note 11, Oliver 2006:22.

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20. See note 18, Sanghavi 2006.

21. See note 12, Harris 2006:89–90.

22. For one, see Bortolotti L, Harris J. Disability, enhancement and the harm-benefit continuum. In: Spencer JR, Du Bois-Pedain A, eds. Freedom and Responsibility in Reproductive Choice. Oxford: Hart Publishing; 2006:31–49.

23. Buchanan A, Brock DW, Daniels N, Wikler D. From Chance to Choice: Genetics & Justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2006:107–8.

24. See note 23, Buchanan et al. 2006:156–8.

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27. See note 23, Buchanan et al. 2006:204–222, and note 12, Harris 2007:72–4.

28. See note 23, Buchanan et al. 2006:167–70.

29. See note 23, Buchanan et al. 2006:204–22.

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31. See note 18, Sanghavi 2006.

32. Cole P. The body politic: Theorizing disability and impairment. Journal of Applied Philosophy 2004; 24(2):169–76.

33. See note 32, Cole 2004:172.

34. See note 32, Cole 2004:175.

35. See note 23, Buchanan et al. 2006:250–7.

36. Mameli M. Reproductive cloning, genetic engineering and the autonomy of the child: The moral agent and the open future. Journal of Medical Ethics 2007;33(2):87–93.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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