Wednesday’s Words of Worry

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

I know I’m supposed to be giving you some Wisdom to counter last week’s Worry, but I’m afraid I need to point this particular quote out to you all. If I wasn’t so fond of the alliterative title, I would have called this ‘Wednesday’s Words of Utter Tripe’.

It comes from the UK, where if you’ve been following the biopolitical debates, the HFEA bill is causing controversy in the deaf community over a particular clause that rules it illegal to select a disabled embryo over a non-disabled embryo. So, this particular quote comes from Professor Peter Braude, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where he is the director of the Assisted Conception Unit.

“I have serious concerns about deliberately selecting a embryo for deafness. This is the same as taking a normal child and deliberately making it deaf so that it can fit in with a community. I don’t see how that can be acceptable.” (source: Telegraph)

I really hope that it is obvious to you all that this is not the case. Nobody is modifying any children, nor are there any children in this case to modify. They are embryos, and they are not genetically modified – their genome is exactly what they had since conception. Embryo selection merely chooses which are implanted and which are not. They are choosing to have a deaf baby, not making a baby deaf.

Consider other examples. Choosing not to have children because you want to focus on your career is not the same thing as killing a child because you want more time for work. Choosing to have a child free from Down’s syndrome is not the same thing as curing a child from Down’s syndrome. Choosing to have a boy is not the same thing as performing a sex-change on a girl.

I would have thought a Professor would have the brains to realise this, but obviously I am wrong.


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