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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.



Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age #1: How “Better Babies” Became “Fitter Families”by Natalie OveyssiBiopolitical TimesJuly 7th, 2015The first post in a new series on lesser-known stories of the American eugenics movement examines how baby health contests shifted focus to the family with the help of one key, familiar individual.
Down Syndrome Screening isn’t About Public Health. It’s About Eliminating a Group of People.by Renate LindemanWashington PostJune 16th, 2015Testing should be used to enhance health and human well-being instead of discriminating against people based on their genetic predisposition.
The Bioethics of Genetic Diversityby Xavier SymonsBioEdgeJune 6th, 2015The ethical issues surrounding the protection of genetic variation in a population are examined.
Let’s Talk About the Ethics of Germline Modificationby Gregor WolbringImpact EthicsMay 27th, 2015We need clarity about where the public discussion should take place, what exactly it should focus on, and who should participate.
The Scope of Eugenics: A Workshopby Jonathan ChernoguzMay 27th, 2015The four-day workshop, organized by the Edmonton-based Living Archives Project on Eugenics in Western Canada, brought together early-career scholars interested in eugenics to discuss historical models and forms of "Newgenics."
Do We Really Need an Even Better Prenatal Test for Down Syndrome?by Chris KaposyImpact EthicsMay 19th, 2015Because of their ease of use and their non-invasiveness, the new non-invasive prenatal tests for Down syndrome could contribute to increased numbers of selective terminations of pregnancy.
Innovation and Equity in an Age of Gene Editingby Charis Thompson, Ruha Benjamin, Jessica Cussins and Marcy DarnovskyThe GuardianMay 19th, 2015As experts gather in Atlanta to discuss the rights and wrongs of editing human genomes, four of the attendees explain why it is vital to put social justice at the heart of the debate.
Public interest group calls for strengthening global policies against human germline modification[Press statement]April 22nd, 2015“No researcher has the moral warrant to flout the globally widespread policy agreement against altering the human germline.”
Markingson case: University of Minnesota can't regain trust under current leadershipby Arne H. CarlsonStar TribuneApril 13th, 2015We will not see meaningful reform of research on human subjects so long as leaders responsible for years of denials and stonewalling remain in charge.
Calling for “More than a Moratorium” on Human Germline Modificationby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 9th, 2015A broader array of critical responses and policy suggestions follows recent reports that the gene-editing technique CRISPR has been used to genetically modify human sperm, eggs or embryos.
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