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Ethics and Deafness: Dianrez Weighs In

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:14am

Dianrez asked some thought-provoking questions:

Take the child who was born deaf and admire how physically perfect he is. He runs, skips, analyzes, critically examines, laughs and cries. What, you say he is not perfect? Because he can't hear?

Me: Why shouldn't he ALSO be able to hear?

Take your own motives. You want to give him what you already have and hold precious...the ability to hear and communicate. What, you think he won't be able to do so otherwise?

Me: Without his amplification he would not have been able to communicate with his peers...or hear.

Isn't a different method of "hearing" and communicating just as good? Why or why not? Be aware that your own prejudices are coloring your thoughts.

Me: There is no different literal meaning of "hearing" - you hear or you do not. Figuratively speaking, I could "go there," but I'm focusing on the literal. Additional methods of communicating are always welcome. I am not prejudice in regard to deafness, I treat my child as an individual and address his personality and needs.

Take the child's own motives. Will he appreciate the artificial hearing, an imperfect and incomplete method of communication, being surgically implanted with an unknown level of risk and unknown future of complications? Or will he appreciate being cherished as he is, healthy and Deaf, and given all the educational advantages that you would give him anyway using other methods?

Me: I cannot comment on a new mother's situation without knowing about her family or the specific child. Given where the technology is at this point in regard to the ABI, I would have to really be convinced to have that operation performed on my child. In regard to our experience with Jordan, he has always "heard artificially," has only complained when the batteries die and is utterly cherished for the person he is...healthy, Deaf, American, Italian, big brother, beach-volleyball player, stubborn adolescent middle school student.

Will he appreciate a possibly marginal relationship with the hearing world, always a little bit off in timing and comprehension in many situations, and/or will he also enjoy the rich and emotionally satisfying interaction with other Deaf people?

Me: He doesn't "appreciate" his relationship with the hearing world, because it is all he has ever known. We take many things for granted. He enjoys rich and satisfying interactions with other deaf individuals all of whom are amplified and speak. One day, I am sure he will learn sign language and explore the Deaf community, that is not our reality at the current time.

Will he end up a poster child for surgery, forever justifying and demonstrating its benefits; will he become a fully featured hearing person with no thought to the upkeep, maintenance and surgical replacements he will have to go through? Will he have time and energy left over to become a whole person in himself?

Me: He is already a "poster child" of his own free will, he doesn't need me to express his thoughts...he has a voice of his own. And people do not need me to translate his words any longer. We'll deal with the surgical replacements when the time comes, no one said this was an easy process. Is anyone ever really a whole person...I'm still searching for me - I think that's what makes life a continual growth process.

In giving him a gift with many qualifications, are you actually trying to impose an idealized version of the child you wanted, or a miniature version of yourself? Is it so hard to accept him for the way he was born, an intelligent Deaf child with huge unexplored potential?

Me: *smile* God forbid that I create a mini-me. If you limit his ability to hear and receive the greatest number of messages possible (many of which are received auditorily), you limit unexplored potential.

These questions may seem harsh, but consider that the teenager you will have may ask them. Certainly most Deaf people think these, especially after they are given aids or surgery by the people in their families.

Some parents will just dismiss this and merrily go on, confident that their research and calculations of the pitfalls and risks are correct...after all, what do deaf people know about the hearing world?

Me: Rhetorical question?

Indeed, what do you know about the deaf child himself? What do you know of his world after he grows up?

Me: I only know my deaf child and he's teaching me more and more on a day to day basis. I will always be a part of his world - I'm a meddling mamma.

Personally, I have found myself moderating my opinions on surgical treatment of deaf children with the increasingly vocal parent and implantee community coming to the forefront in recent months.

Me: This gives me great pleasure! *smile*

Then an article comes up that talks about brain surgery and I wonder again about the extent to which people will go to in order to achieve their ideal child.

Me: I agree 100% (It took me the whole comment to get here, but I agree)
However...a parent has the right to choose.
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