In one's own image

Ethics and the reproduction of deafness

Trevor Johnston*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    The ethics of the use of genetic screening and reproductive technologies to select against and for deafness is presented. It is argued that insofar as deafness is a disability it is ethical to act in such a way as to avoid the conception or birth of children with genetic or congenital deafness. The discovery and recognition of signing deaf communities as cultural and linguistic communities (minorities) does not alter this basic ethical position, although the consequences of widespread application of this technology appears destined to lead to the eventual disappearance of these communities. The argument that acting to avoid deafness is unethical because it will lead to the elimination of a linguistic or cultural group (genocide or ethnocide) or conversely that acting to ensure deafness is ethical, if not praiseworthy, can only be sustained if deafness is not regarded as a disability at all. I argue that the premise that deafness is not a disability of some sort is false and thus the claim that genetic selection against deafness is unethical is untenable.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)426-441
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

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