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About Disability & Human Biotechnology


Disability rights advocates have been among the earliest and most vocal critics of emerging genetic and reproductive technologies. Many people with disabilities are acutely aware that technologies enabling the selection of “good” genes and “normal” traits can devalue disabled people’s bodies and ultimately their lives.

This concern is informed by past and ongoing discrimination against people with disabilities that often includes brutal practices. For example, twentieth-century eugenicis­ts in the United States and some European countries sponsored programs that sterilized tens of thousands of disabled people. The Nazi genocide began with doctors and nurses exterminating over 100,000 disabled people in German medical facilities; tens of thousands more perished in concentration camps.

This historical context gives pause to disability rights advocates concerned about existing selection technologies that are increasingly being used to prevent the birth of children with particular traits, as well as future technologies that could be used to modify children’s genes.



Should Women Be Able to Abort a Fetus Just Because It’s Female?by Emma GreenThe AtlanticMay 16th, 2016A new wave of state legislation prohibits the termination of a pregnancy based on sex, race, and genetic abnormality.
Huntington’s disease: the new gene therapy that sufferers cannot affordby Dara MohammadiThe Guardian [UK]May 15th, 2016Scientists are working on genetic therapy treatments for Huntington's disease, which affects many families in South America, but it is a difficult and expensive endeavor.
Scientists are trying to use CRISPR to fix everything. What’s wrong with that?by Emily McManusTED IdeasMay 5th, 2016A historian of eugenics asks: "Will individuals start making decisions to use new biotech to improve themselves and their children?"
Let people most affected by gene editing write CRISPR rulesby Jessica HamzelouNew ScientistApril 29th, 2016The US National Academies' committee on human gene editing held a discussion in Paris at the French National Academy of Medicine.
Dwarfism, Chemical Limb Lengthening, and Informed Consentby Joseph StramondoInternational Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics BlogApril 25th, 2016A California biotech company is testing a drug designed to "normalize" annual growth but not address health complications of dwarfism.
Human Experimentation: Rethinking The 'Bad Old Days'by Barron LernerForbesApril 19th, 2016The horrors in our medical past require that we not brush them aside as just wrong but that we look hard at why they happened.
In IVF, Questions About ‘Mosaic’ Embryosby Kira PeikoffThe New York TimesApril 18th, 201620% of embryos have both "normal" and "abnormal" cells, generating false positive genetic test results, and questions among fertility clinics about whether to implant.
‘Buffer genes’ may protect these 13 people from rare genetic diseasesby Jocelyn KaiserScience/AAASApril 11th, 2016Researchers analyzed the DNA of 589,000 anonymous donors, but could not contact the 13 people to verify they were healthy.
Turning to technology when nature isn't enough for pregnancyby Marion CallahanBucks County Courier Times / The HeraldApril 9th, 2016“Gender is not a disease; it's a preference. Once you start doing it for preferences, not medical reasons, you are opening a door to a big slippery slope.”
Yeast Infection Led to Removal of Transplanted Uterusby Denise GradyThe New York TimesApril 8th, 2016Just two weeks after the first US uterus transplant, the organ had to be removed because a common yeast infection posed life-threatening risks.
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