"Abort Disabled, Says One Geneticist"

Here's a sobering account of one geneticist's advocacy of
aborting blind and disabled babies, arguing that society
might be better off if their births are prevented.
Disability advocates, who attended the lecture where
geneticist Dan Brock presented his ideas, argue that his
arguments have profound implications for society's general
attitudes toward people with disabilities and, potentially,
the provision of disability-related services. Brock
insists that he is not trying to pass judgment on people
with disabilities, but that he merely wants to leave it in
the hands of parents (as opposed to government regulation)
to decide whether or not to seek abortions when genetic
screening indicates the presence of disabilities.

Jonathan Young
JFA Editor, AAPD


Geneticist: Abort the blind and disabled

By: Julie Novak November 20, 2002

Narragansett Times

KINGSTON - Society might be better off if it prevents the
birth of blind and severely disabled children, said
biomedical ethicist Dan W. Brock at the University of Rhode
Island's tenth Honors Colloquium lecture last Tuesday
night. In a world where genetic screening has become not
only common, but also proficient and covered by health
insurance in some cases, new parents may be facing more
thought-provoking decisions as they prepare for the birth
of a child. And Brock thinks such decisions should be left
to parents, not the government, because of their

A supporter of pre-birth screening and procedures like
abortion to prevent disabled children from being born,
Brock said his thoughts should not be perceived as a
judgment of severely disabled people.

"I want to define genetic testing in a strictly
reproductive context. It's uncontroversial that serious
disabilities should be prevented in born persons," Brock
asserted. "It's considered a misfortune to be born blind or
with a serious cognitive disability, but if it's a bad
thing for a born person, then why not prevent these
conditions in someone who will be born?"

Brock countered several arguments put forth by disability
advocates, who fear his theories will label them as second-
class citizens, in his lecture titled, "Genetic Testing &
Selection: A Response to the Disability Movement's
Critique." Despite their fears that this implies society
would be better "if they had never been born," Brock said
he upholds the "full and equal moral status" of disabled

He contends the volume of governmental policies that
promote equal opportunity still do not help a severely
disabled person enjoy the same quality of life as a person
who was born "normal." But that does not mean someone who
becomes disabled through an accident should not be provided

"We should distinguish between preventing people from
becoming disabled from preventing the existence of disabled
people," explained Brock, a former professor of philosophy
and biomedical ethics at Brown University who now works for
the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Disabled persons will argue they experience a high quality
of life, but Brock said that this type of self-assessment
can be misleading because people learn new skills and adapt
to their environment to cope with their disability.
"They do suffer real disadvantages," he said. "Our notion
of how good a person's life is is not fully determined by
their own subjective self-assessment." Brock believes
genetic screening will eventually lead to fewer people with
severe disabilities. He acknowledged that eliminating
severely disabled children might decrease the amount of
services and programs available for others, a notion
disability advocates use to oppose his argument. "But
fewer resources would be needed," Brock noted.

Brock stated blindness and severe cognitive dysfunction are
two disabilities he would prevent. But the issue is not
black and white, he added, and other disabilities that can
be prevented, like deafness, conjure up controversy as
well. Is their quality of life severely affected by our
society? he asked. "This is why these choices should be
left to individual parents," Brock said, adding that most
parents, if given a choice, will opt not to have a child
with disabilities.

"Preventing a severe disability is not for the sake of the
child who will have it. Rather, it is for the sake of less
suffering and loss of opportunity in the world."


[Note: the above link is broken into two lines.]

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