In this month’s British Deaf News (a regular column author), and also on a campaign blog, there is information about the Bill which is mistaken and needs to be urgently clarified.
The Bill does NOT authorise the removal of a deaf gene from an embryo, and neither does it ban deaf genes or embryo’s completely, either generally or via IVF.
The legislation would apply only IF the couple tested the embryo’s after IVF to see if it they are deaf or hearing, and then only IF there were a mix of deaf and hearing embryos.
In other words, the test is not compulsory; people do not have to have the test.
IF they have the test and the embryos are ALL deaf, they CAN have those embryos inserted.
IF they have the test and there is a MIX of deaf and hearing embryos they MUST ‘prefer’ the hearing ones (or they can simply decide not to have any put in).
The logic of this is quite simple: those people who are not bothered whether the embryo is deaf or hearing will simply not have the test. Those who WANT a deaf embryo will also simply not have the test (they won’t be able to choose the deaf ones, but they would HAVE to have the hearing one inserted).
But those who WANT a hearing embryo, will, of course, have the test since they will be able to choose the hearing ones. That is why it is a form of eugenics; people who WANT a hearing embryo can test and choose the hearing embryos over the deaf ones; those who are not bothered, or who prefer deaf embryos can’t.
It is, of course, possible to remove deaf genes; my understanding is that this has been achieved in experiments on animals, and it is possible in humans too. Sure there are people out there (medical people, the lay public, eugenicists etc) who’d be happy if this became widespread practice but that isn’t what this Bill would do. It could be argued that it might pave the way for making it easier to update the legislation to do so in future.
Finally a reminder: the clause does not specifically refer to deaf embryo’s but the deaf embryo has been referred to several times as an example of an ‘abnormal gene’ that this legislation would apply to.
Hope that clears things up.