A professor at America’s premier college for deaf students has now proposed that curing deafness is a form of “cultural genocide” because deaf people who can hear would stop using sign language.
Gene therapy to treat and cure deafness in children is thus ethically wrong because it will limit the number of deaf people who can communicate with sign language.
The professor, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke of the philosophy and religion faculty at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., espoused her theory of “cultural genocide” earlier this month at Impact Ethics, a website covering bioethical issues.
“Members of the signing Deaf community argue that research which aims to eliminate or cure deafness is a form of cultural genocide,” Burke explains. “The argument goes like this: the use of gene therapy to cure hereditary deafness would result in smaller numbers of deaf children. This, in turn, would reduce the critical mass of signing Deaf people needed for a flourishing community, ultimately resulting in the demise of the community.”