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Question Two

The following issue is adapted from Michael J. Sandel’s The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007. pp 1-2):

A few years ago, an infertile couple decided they wanted to have a child, preferably a deaf one. Both partners were deaf, and proudly so. Like others in the deaf-pride community, the couple considered DNAdeafness a cultural identity, not a disability to be cured. “Being deaf is just a way of life,” they said. “We feel whole as deaf people, and we want to share the wonderful aspects of our deaf community—a sense of belonging and connectedness—with children. We truly feel we live rich lives as deaf people.”

In hopes of conceiving a deaf child, they sought out a sperm donor with five generations of deafness in his family. And they succeeded. Their son Gauvin was born deaf.

The new parents were surprised when their story, which was reported in The Washington Post, brought widespread condemnation. Most of the outrage focused on the charge that they had deliberately inflicted a disability on their child. The couple denied that deafness is a disability and argued that they had simply wanted a child like themselves. “We do not view what we did as very different from what many [...] couples do when they have children,” they argued.

Take a position on this issue, and justify your rationale. Did this couple cross the line? If so, upon what basis? Is it fundamentally wrong for parents to pick and choose their children's physical characteristics, or is such action ethically acceptable?

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Reminder: E-mail your submission to LTC Hank Fuller before 1700 (5:00 p.m.) EST on Friday, 11 March.

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