As presented in an article by M. Spriggs, Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough are a deaf lesbian couple with a mutual desire to have a deaf child. In order to do so, they first approached a sperm bank with a request for a donor with a family history of deafness, but were ultimately denied as the presence of congenital diseases was a condition that disqualified potential donors (4). They then approached a mutual family friend, who had a family history of deafness, and upon receiving his consent, used his sperm in order to conceive their daughter, Jehanne, and ultimately their son, Gauvin, five years later (4).
Though McCullough and Duchesneau were criticized, their decision to intentionally have a deaf child is defendable on multiple grounds. For starters, both parents, along with many others in the deaf community, viewed deafness not as a disability but rather as a cultural identity embodied by a distinct form of communication, American Sign Language (4). McCullough further substantiates this belief by stating that in their efforts to have a deaf child, they acted in no way different than parents intentionally trying to have a child from a minority group, such as a female or black child, who on average would face certain challenges not experienced by their counterparts (4). While deliberately having minority children is morally permissible by society, the couple argues that the same notion applies to deaf children too. The couple’s argument here however, rests on the premise that the challenges faced by blacks, females, and deaf children are analogous, leading to their conclusion that it would therefore not be wrong to intentionally produce a child belonging to any one of those groups (1).Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough’s argument has, however, received criticism for a number of reasons. For starters, their overall argument rests on the single premise that the challenges faced by blacks, females, and deaf children are analogous to one another. The criticism of this premise is explained by N. Levy in his article, “Deafness, Culture, and Choice”, from the Journal of Medical Ethics. Levy objects the couple’s premise by first pointing out that when the causes behind the negative consequences that result from being part of a minority are not the same, then the hardships themselves cannot be the same (3). Since the disadvantages faced by black people for example are purely due to social hardships and not their actual skin pigment, their hardships could actually improve if society were to entirely change (3). For deaf individuals on the other hand, changes in society’s behaviour would not resolve their hardships, which are primarily due to the physical loss of hearing in their ears. Thus, if the hardships themselves are different among deaf versus black individuals, then producing a deaf child cannot be permitted on the grounds that the child is simply part of a minority group that faces similar hardships, such as black individuals.
Despite this criticism against Duchesneau and McCullough’s premise, which relies on the analogous challenges of black and deaf individuals, there is still a sufficient amount of evidence supporting the couple’s views. For starters, many of the hardships faced by deaf people do in fact come from societal behaviour, and any of the remaining traits that deaf people have are simply the individual characteristics, that make us all unique as humans (2). Levy expands on this argument by addressing a number of different technologies that have also come to be, in order to emphasize the many similarities that deaf individuals share with non-deaf individuals (3). For example, from sign interpreters, caption television, and Video Relay Servicing, to the broad range of internet services, deaf individuals have many means of having a lifestyle comparable to any minority group (1). Certain hardships, however, such as mocking due to an inability to speak, societal ignorance, etc. are among the main issues faced by deaf individuals. These hardships however are purely societal and could be amended if society was fixed for the better(4). Similarly, the hardships faced by black individuals arise from racism and cultural ignorance, both of which are society related issues that could be addressed and amended. For this reason, being deaf can most definitely be analogous to being black, or part of any minority, as the primary hardships faced are caused by society’s behaviour and could be resolved (4). Overall, the mere fact that some individuals are different from others does not mean that those individuals are definitely worse off in life, and thus it is not morally wrong to intentionally create an individual with such characteristics (4). All in all, Duchesneau and McCullough’s premise that blacks and deaf individuals face similar hardships is defensible on a number of grounds.