SF Gate.com Home

SFGate Home
Today's Chronicle

Sports
Entertainment

News & Features
Business
Opinion
Politics
Technology
Crime
Science
Weird News
Polls
Photo Gallery
Columnists
Travel
Lottery
Obituaries

Personal Shopper

Classifieds
Jobs
Personals
Real Estate
Rentals
Vehicles
WebAds

Regional
Traffic
Weather
Live Views
Maps
Bay Area Traveler
Wine Country
Reno & Tahoe
Ski & Snow
Outdoors
Earthquakes
Schools

Entertainment
Food & Dining
Wine
Movies
Music & Nightlife
Events
Performance
Art
Books
Comics
TV & Radio
Search Listings

Living
Health
Home & Garden
Gay & Lesbian
Horoscope

Resources
Search & Archives
Feedback/Contacts
Corrections
Newsletters
Promotions
Site Index

Subscriber Service
Missed Delivery
Vacation Hold
Subscribe
Contact

Advertising
Advertise in Print
Place a Classified
Advertise Online
SF Gate Media Kit
 




If You Knew Your Child Would Be Born Deaf . . .

Lisa A. Goldstein

Monday, February 1, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Sections

I READ THE PAPER every day. I'm affected by what's in its pages but it's not every day that an article frightens me with its Orwellian implications.

The New York Times reported late last year that scientists had discovered a gene linked to deafness was prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews. The more know about our DNA, the better, so in this regard, it's good news.

This may offer an insight into one cause of deafness, although scientists have cautioned that this development doesn't mean deafness is more common in Jews than in other people. Ashkenazi Jews comprise 90 percent of the 6 million Jews in the United States, the article stated. Of the general population, including Jews, roughly 1 person in 1,000 is born deaf. Half of those born deaf have hereditary deafness.

Both my sister and I are profoundly deaf, yet there is no other incidence of deafness in our family. Both of our parents are Ashkenazi Jews, so it's possible that this is the cause of our deafness.

I'm always asked what caused my deafness, and the only answer I've been able to give is, ``We think it's a recessive gene.'' Now, I might be able to respond with some degree of certainty. In gaining this bit of knowledge, I am learning about my potential offspring's odds of being born deaf.

Here's where the news gets ugly.

Although I'm deaf, I wouldn't wish it upon my child as some members of the deaf community do, nor would I use genetic testing to insure ``an ideal'' child.

Being deaf isn't easy, but it doesn't make me any less of a person. I want my child to have an easier life than mine, but I wouldn't abort merely because the fetus doesn't have perfect hearing.

What does deafness hinder? Very little today, and with technological improvements, the future only looks brighter.

If testing for genes like this one is used to screen out traits deemed undesirable, our society will find itself on a slippery slope, resulting in moral confusion and a homogeneous population. How stifling. How dull.

The other consequence of this gene discovery is the potential for discrimination in employment or health insurance against Ashkenazi Jews. Instead of being proud of our ancestors, and reveling in what our families have accomplished, we could suffer from a stigma of being a Jew.

Funny. Linking a gene to deafness in Ashkenazi Jews might have a two-fold result: it could be a jump to the future or a throwback to the past. Or, more dispiriting, both.

Lisa A. Goldstein is journalism student at the University of California at Berkeley.

graphical line

Page A - 19
Buy The San Francisco Chronicle Get 50% off home delivery of the Chronicle for 12 weeks!
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback | FAQ

 


Printer-friendly version
Email this article to a friend



Health
.Main Opinion Page
.Chronicle Sunday Insight
.Chronicle Campaigns

SF Chronicle Submissions
.Letters to the Editor
.Open Forum
.Sunday Insight


onsale
Subscribe to Berkeley Rep's 04/05 Season
Distinctly original. Unmistakably Berkeley Rep. 510.647.2949
On Sale Now
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Bay Area

Place an OnSale ad
About OnSale
View All OnSale Ads