Is it ever morally permissible to select for deafness in one’s child?

Jacqueline Mae Wallis

Is it ever morally permissible to select for deafness in one’s child?

Abstract: As reproductive genetic technologies advance, families have more options to choose what sort of child they want to have. Using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), for example, allows parents to evaluate several existing embryos before selecting which to implant via in vitro fertilization (IVF). One of the traits PGD can identify is genetic deafness, and hearing embryos are now preferentially selected around the globe using this method. Importantly, some Deaf families desire a deaf child, and PGD–IVF is also an option for them. Selection for genetic deafness, however, encounters widespread disapproval in the hearing community, including mainstream philosophy and bioethics. In this paper I apply Elizabeth Barnes’ value-neutral model of disability as mere-difference to the case of selecting for deafness. I draw on evidence from Deaf Studies and Disability Studies to build an understanding of deafness, the Deaf community, and the circumstances relevant to reproductive choices that may obtain for some Deaf families. Selection for deafness, with deafness understood as mere-difference and valued for its cultural identity, need not necessitate impermissible moral harms. I thus advocate that it is sometimes morally permissible to select for deafness in one’s child.

Wallis, J.M. Is it ever morally permissible to select for deafness in one’s child?. Med Health Care and Philos 23, 3–15 (2020).

Can conscientious objection lead to eugenic practices against LGBT individuals?

Toni C. Saad, Daniel Rodger



In a recent article in this journal, Abram Brummett argues that new and future assisted reproductive technologies will provide challenging ethical questions relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Brummett notes that it is likely that some clinicians may wish to conscientiously object to offering assisted reproductive technologies to LGBT couples on moral or religious grounds, and argues that such appeals to conscience should be constrained. We argue that Brummett’s case is unsuccessful because he: does not adequately interact with his opponents’ views; equivocates on the meaning of ‘natural’; fails to show that the practice he opposes is eugenic in any non-trivial sense; and fails to justify and explicate the relevance of the naturalism he proposes. We do not argue that conscience protections should exist for those objecting to providing LGBT people with artificial reproductive technologies, but only show that Brummett’s arguments are insufficient to prove that they should not.

Saad C, Rodger D.  Can conscientious objection lead to eugenic practices against LGBT individuals? Bioethics; 2019 Feb 08

Conscience claims, metaphysics, and avoiding an LGBT eugenic

Abram Brummet



Novel assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are poised to present our society with strange new ethical questions, such as whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples should be allowed to produce children biologically related to both parents, or whether trans-women who want to experience childbirth should be allowed to receive uterine transplants. Clinicians opposed to offering such technologies to LGBT couples on moral grounds are likely to seek legal shelter through the conscience clauses enshrined in U.S. law. This paper begins by briefly discussing some novel ART on the horizon and noting that it is unclear whether current conscience clauses will permit fertility clinics to deny such services to LGBT individuals. A compromise approach to conscience is any view that sees the value of respecting conscience claims within limits. I describe and critique the constraints proposed in the recent work of Wicclair, NeJaime and Siegel as ultimately begging the question. My purpose is to strengthen their arguments by suggesting that in the controversial situations that elicit claims of conscience, bioethicists should engage with the metaphysical claims in play. I argue that conscience claims against LGBT individuals ought to be constrained because the underlying metaphysic—that God has decreed the LGBT lifestyle to be sinful—is highly implausible from the perspective of a naturalized metaphysic, which ought to be the lens through which we evaluate conscience claims.

Brummett A. Conscience claims, metaphysics, and avoiding an LGBT eugenic. Bioethics. 2018;00:1–9.

Perimortem gamete retrieval: should we worry about consent?

Anna Smajdor

Journal of Medical Ethics


Perimortem gamete retrieval has been a possibility for several decades. It involves the surgical extraction of gametes which can then be cryo-preserved and stored for future use. Usually, the request for perimortem gamete retrieval is made by the patient’s partner after the patient himself, or herself, has lost the capacity to consent for the procedure. Perimortem gamete retrieval allows for the partner of a dead patient to pursue jointly held reproductive aspiration long after their loved one’s death. But how can we know if the dying patient would have consented to gamete retrieval? In the UK, consent is a legal necessity for storing or using gametes – but this is not always enforced. Moreover, although the issues related to posthumous reproduction have been discussed at length in the literature, few commentators have addressed the specific question of retrieval. Gamete retrieval is an invasive and sensitive operation; as with any other intervention performed on the bodies of dead or dying patients, the nature and justification for this procedure needs to be carefully considered. In particular, it is important to question the idea that consent for such an intervention can be inferred solely from a person’s known wishes or plans concerning reproduction.

Smajdor A. Perimortem gamete retrieval: should we worry about consent? J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101727

In Defense of Ectogenesis

Amma Smajdor

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Conclusion: There is a fundamental and inexorable conflict between the demands of gestation and childbirth and the social values we share as human beings: independence,equality of opportunity, autonomy, education, and career and relationship fulfillment. When women achieve greater power and choice in their societies,they have fewer children and have them later in life. Or they have none. But if our species is to survive, children must be born. . .

. . . Changes to financial and social structures may improve things marginally, but a better solution needs to be found. Either we view women as baby carriers who must subjugate their other interests to the well-being of their children or we acknowledge that our social values and level of medical expertise are no longer compatible with ‘‘natural’’ reproduction.

Smajdor A. In Defense of Ectogenesis. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2012) 21 , pp 90-103

Reproductive health services and the law and ethics of conscientious objection

Bernard M. Dickens

Medicine and Law

Abstract: Reproductive health services address contraception, sterilization and abortion, and new technologies such as gamete selection and manipulation, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. Artificial fertility control and medically assisted reproduction are opposed by conservative religions and philosophies, whose adherents may object to participation. Physicians’ conscientious objection to non-lifesaving interventions in pregnancy have long been accepted. Nurses’ claims are less recognized, allowing nonparticipation in abortions but not refusal of patient preparation and aftercare. Objections of others in health-related activities, such as serving meals to abortion patients and typing abortion referral letters, have been disallowed. Pharmacists may claim refusal rights over fulfilling prescriptions for emergency (post-coital) contraceptives and drugs for medical (i.e. non-surgical) abortion. This paper addresses limits to conscientious objection to participation in reproductive health services, and conditions to which rights of objection may be subject. Individuals have human rights to freedom of religious conscience, but institutions, as artificial legal persons, may not claim this right.

Dickens BM. Reproductive health services and the law and ethics of conscientious objection. Med Law. 2001;20(2):283-93.

Some legal and ethical issues in assisted reproductive technology

Bernard M. Dickens, Rebecca J. Cook

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics

Abstract: The potential and actual applications of reproductive technologies have been reviewed by many governmental committees, and laws have been enacted in several countries to accommodate, limit and regulate their use. Regulatory systems have nevertheless left some legal and ethical issues unresolved, and have caused other issues to arise. Issues that regulatory systems leave unresolved, or that systems have created, include disposal of embryos that remain after patients’ treatments are concluded, and multiple implantation and pregnancy. This may result in risks to maternal, embryonic and neonatal life and health, and the contentious relief that may be achieved by selective reduction of multiple pregnancies. A further concern arises when clinics must or choose to publicize their success rates, and they compete for favorable statistics  by questionable patient selection criteria and treatment priorities.

Dickens BM, Cook RJ. Some legal and ethical issues in assisted reproductive technology. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 66 (1999) 55-61