Couple want right to choose IVF embryo with deaf gene

A deaf couple want new embryology legislation to allow them to deliberately select a deaf child from embryos created by IVF.

The Government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill could allow parents to screen embryos and choose to discard any with a serious disability.

But Paula Garfield and Tomato Lichy argue that the rules should apply the other way, permitting them to choose to have a deaf child. They say that the proposals as they stand discriminate against deaf people.

The couple said: “If hearing people were to have the right to throw away a deaf embryo, then we as deaf people should also have the right to throw away a hearing embryo.”

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People does not support the choice of deaf embryos over those who would not be born with hearing problems.

Its chief executive Jackie Ballard said: “Deafness is a disability and we have spent a long time campaigning to improve the lives of people who live with it. But it is certainly not a slight to the deaf to say it is better to bring a child who will face the least difficulty into the world.”

Opponents of embryo selection say destroying an embryo, whether it is deaf or not, is wrong. The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said, “the dignity of human life does not depend on the ability to hear.”

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is expected to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons in the coming weeks.

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