Since I will not be present in class tonight, I decided to post my thoughts on how a social worker would contribute in selecting for or against a deaf child using gene editing. This position that I picked on Monday interested me because I am starting social work school next year and wanted to reflect on ethical issues in such situations.
As a social worker, I would help parents/family assess resources, circumstances and prospects of the family, environment in which a child will live, and all available options they can choose from moving forward. Though it upsets me to even write this, in some instances it would be better for the family to select for a hearing child, for instance, if their financial and geographical situations do not allow for the child do go to the school where they can thrive, or for family to learn ASL. Government assistance is almost never enough, and the family might not have the resources (i.e. money, transportation, time, education, support, access to deaf spaces and community) to help a deaf child to live a fulfilling life in the hearing world. [I really want to be wrong about this, so please comment if you have counterarguments to this paragraph!]
Then, regardless of the family’s preliminary decision, I would validate their experience and choice and educate them on all resources that are available for them in the community, institutions and nation-wide. Sometimes, parents might not realize that there are many support points in their area which would allow their deaf child to thrive. No matter what the family ends up choosing (they would always be the ones making the final decision), I would connect them to appropriate resources to prepare for having a hearing or deaf child, counseling services, healthcare providers, community care centers, schools and/or deaf spaces.
All in all, I really hope I would have to advise against a deaf child extremely rarely, if not never. Building strong community care and working towards universal access through education and advocacy would allow us to never have to make a decision like that again, and I hope that as a social worker, I will be able to bring some positive change in these areas.
As a final thought, I want to acknowledge that I disagree with my own post in a way. Many questions popped up for me as I was writing it: Where would the threshold for making a decision to select against a deaf child be? How to deal with the unethical part of making such decision? How do we mediate social inequality that would lead to having a deaf child becoming a privilege, since that decision is based on one’s resources? Finally, isn’t assuming a deaf child should ‘thrive’ a form of inspirational porn?
Please let me know your thoughts, I would really love to discuss this!