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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK


Health

Minority of deaf people 'would abort hearing child'

A tiny proportion of deaf people say they would abort a hearing child

Some deaf people support genetic testing so that they can be sure their child will also be deaf, according to new research.

The research shows most deaf people are against genetic testing, but a small number would use it because they would prefer a deaf child.

A tiny minority would even consider aborting a hearing child.

The research shows that many deaf people do not consider their condition to be a disability.

Anna Middleton, a genetic counsellor at St James' University Hospital in Leeds, surveyed 87 people at the Deaf Nation conference in Lancashire last year.

She found deaf people were more than twice as likely to be against genetic testing as the general population.

Sixteen per cent of the small group said they might use genetic testing and a third of these said they would prefer to have deaf children.

According to the New Scientist magazine, Ms Middleton says she is now conducting a larger survey.

However, she is still finding a small proportion of people who say they would consider aborting a hearing child.

Support

A spokesman for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People said the deaf community was a unique one.

"They quite rightly feel that deafness is not a disability. It is understandable that hearing people see it as a disability, but if you are born deaf and live with it all your life, you do not see yourself as disabled.

"Disability conjures up images of wheelchairs and people see the disability instead of the person."

He said the RNID welcomed any medical research that could say if a baby would be deaf as this could allow parents to prepare for it in advance and get counselling and support.

However, it was against aborting on the basis of whether they were deaf or not.

He added that the majority of deaf and hard of hearing people developed their condition in old age so tests were useless.

He also questioned the factual basis of the Leeds study given the small numbers of people involved.



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Internet Links


Royal National Institute for Deaf People

Human Genetics Advisory Commission

New Scientist online


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