What an experience! If anyone enjoys chaos, argument, stress, this was one to crave. On Thursday 17th January I was interviewed on See Hear as a representative from the Stop Eugenics campaign.
I was given the questions that would be asked, sent to me the day before by the producer, and did a little prep on how I would answer those once in the hot seat. Admittedly my mind had been a little haywire in the days running up to it, for personal reasons.
I struggled to answer the first few questions: am not sure why, probably psychologically was the small matter that it’d be broadcast, and being on t.v. isn’t something I enjoy. Also, lack of proper preparation, since the Xmas break had only just ended a week previously.
Prior to the interview one question was causing concern and a sign language interpreter sought clarification. That resulted in a long discussion between the interpreter and producer which delayed the interview by 35-40 mins. When we came to that question in the interview, and after I had given my answer, the producer stopped the interview and said I had not answered the question properly. We then entered into a discussion about the question and it became apparent we had a differing of opinion on the nature of the process of IVF and embryology.
No kidding I fully understood where the producer was coming from. In my attempts at communication I was trying to make sense of and understand that. His argument centred on when an ’embryo’ becomes a ‘person’. We do not, he was arguing, develop into a ‘person’ until 24 or so weeks: until then we are an ’embryo’.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, it enters the debate into completely different territory, cos we then get into a debate/argument about the nature of the embryo, rather than what the proposed legislation plans to do. The clause is related to having a test specifically to weed out ‘abnormal’ embryo’s; by the reckoning of Lords, Politicians and the Department of Health, that includes embryo’s that have a deaf gene. That brings us to the second point: the proposed Bill is set out specifically to select hearing embryo’s over deaf ones (presuming, of course, that the prospective parent have the test).
To ask the question, therefore, of how the child will feel if they grow up ‘knowing their parents had not had the test and therefore deprived them of a sense’ (not my words) assumes the chosen embryo could still develop either way. My argument with the producer was that it’s a hypothetical question since the test for hearing embryo’s is to choose an embryo and that you assume it is going to be born hearing. It’s the legislation that assumes that, not me! It will mean the deaf embryo would have been discarded after a test, and hence the deaf person would not have even been born (let alone be around to complain!)
As I tried to explain to the producer, and as I stated on camera, the question could only become relevant if that person was genetically modified from hearing to deaf, which is not what the legislation is all about.
The argument was not really the most annoying thing; in fact I found that quite interesting and was calm and far from angry in my reasoning. It is what happened as a result of it that was unacceptable.
After I started to contact a genetic counsellor for a second opinion the producer decided to drop the question. He then said something to the effect that I had ‘lost the argument with Baroness Deech’ (presumably because in the producers eyes I had not really responded to it). The producer seemed to be very frustrated and may have been shouting; I got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he had some strong personal beliefs about the matter.
A staff member, overhearing our discussion, had earlier intervened to argue with the producer, basically in my favour. I believe it would have been possible to have rephrased, modified or broken down the question and given a reply to parts of it but the producer seemed so fixated on the issue of when an embryo becomes a person, and after all this I was frankly very fed up, and so we never did return to the question.
The rest of the interview was spent mainly answering questions that had not been sent to me beforehand; not that there are any objections to this but I did wonder why I’d been sent some questions but not others. Those last questions were mainly asking for my response to comments made by Deech or the Department of Health; I was really stressed by that time, but think I managed to put together responses to them.
After the interview I was burning with anger, wondering why I had bothered making the trip from Edinburgh; I’d gotten up at 4.30am to get the train down. Because the interview didn’t end until 6.30pm and lack of tubes on the circle line meant I didn’t get to Kings Cross until 7.45pm I missed the last possible chance of getting back home the same evening.
However, the day did have quite a nice ending. I have always wanted to take a trip on the Caledonian Sleeper: since I was a boy actually(!), and apparently my ticket would be valid for that, all I needed to do was go to Euston and make a reservation. So I hurried off there, quite excited if I’m honest, and got my ticket, opting for a seat rather than a berth. It was quite comfy, and as the seat next to me wasn’t occupied I could put up my feet.
The sleeper left Euston at 11.45pm and got into Edinburgh at 7.15am the next morning…and once I got into Heriot-Watt, I wrote out a complaint to the Editor of See Hear (see next entry)