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Jewish World Review April 16, 2002 / 5 Iyar, 5762

Dennis Byrne

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Consumer Reports

Callous parents deaf to calls of common sense -- A personal note to the deaf, lesbian couple who deliberately conceived a deaf son so that they could have a child "the same as us": Are you nuts, or what?

I'm not supposed to talk that way in this age of sensitivity, but my insensitivity is no match for this couple's unblushing callousness. Someone has to tell Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough: Think about what you are doing to a life that is not yours. Think about the implications when you say it is no different from parents choosing a baby's sex.

Who I am to give such an imperious lecture? A half-deaf old man, that's who. Someone whose left ear is no more than an ornament, made so by an operation that went awry. And someone who wonders about the rest of his hearing after that in his right ear has diminished by a quarter.

It's not like my left ear is totally silent--there's that constant ringing, much like the noise a plane's jet engine makes when taxiing. No, it's not as bad as total deafness; I can make out conversations, a Mozart concerto, my granddaughter's giggles, and other blessings with the help of a hearing aid, provided I'm in the right place.

At restaurants and parties, it's tough. At British movies such as "Gosford Park," in which all the actors are saying, "Fum, fmmm, fum," forget it.

I bring this up because today's victimization dicta require you to have standing before you can criticize. Of course, that's nonsense. You shouldn't have to be deaf or have a significant hearing impairment to pass judgment on the shocking cruelty of this couple. Anyone with a lick of common sense has to say the obvious: Choosing to have a deaf child is shameful abuse.

When you are doing that to a child, you need to hear the truth. To lose your hearing is to lose a precious gift. The politically correct cant that bubbles up from the Deaf--spelled with a capital "D"--community says otherwise. Yes, the deaf can lead enriched lives and the deaf are most welcome to act as if deafness is a blessing. But deafness is not a choice that a parent has a right to make for a child. No more than I would have the right to choose, if that were possible, my hearing condition for my child, based on the wrongheaded assumption that it would toughen her up and stiffen her spine for life's difficulties. No more than blind people have the right to impose blindness on their children. Or paralysis. Or dwarfism. Or any of the endless list of other "challenges" that reduce the God-given right of every human being to realize her full potential.

If Duchesneau and McCullough are good at brainwashing this child, he probably will express thanks for the choice they made for him. But he never will be able to deny the terrible truth that they made this choice for him--for their own satisfaction.

Just as McCullough "happily" wrote in the baby book of her first deaf child, a girl named Jehanne: "First hearing test ... no response at 95 decibels--DEAF!"

Things are not quite so certain for the new baby boy, Gauvin. Now four months old, a slight amount of hearing has been detected in one ear. A shame, I'm sure, because now the couple may have to decide whether they need to provide Gauvin some help, such as hearing aids.

They have faced that prospect, according to a March 31 Washington Post magazine story. "Do you think this baby's hearing?" Candy asked Sharon shortly after his birth.

She says, "I don't know. I can say that I hope the baby's deaf, but to say I felt it's deaf, no."

Candy: "I just say to myself that the baby's deaf. I talk as if the baby's deaf. If the baby's hearing, I'll be shocked."

Sharon: "You better be prepared. With Jehanne, I prepared myself. It could happen. A hearing child would force us to get out and find out what's out there for hearing children. Maybe that would be nice."

Candy looks at her, amazed, the Post story said. "It's not that it's my preference," Sharon says. "But I'm trying to think of something positive."

So am I. But there is nothing positive about such selfishness.

JWR contributor Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and public affairs consultant. Comment by clicking here.

02/15/02: When caring becomes sinister
01/25/02: The unreliable crystal balls of analysts
01/17/02: The curse of 'do-something' pols
01/09/02: Political moderation is for the indifferent, uninformed or undecided

© 2002, Dennis Byrne