Monday, March 10, 2008

Hurrah for Humphries?

It's not often I find myself praising the interviewing techniques of the ever-interrupting John Humphries, but this morning he found himself interviewing a deaf man, apparently over the phone, with the aid of someone signing for the interviewee. Mr Humphries was therefore unable and/or unwilling to interrupt in his usual fashion and the quality of his interview was all the better for it.

In the interview on Radio 4's "Today" programme, the man defended his claim that he and his partner should have the right to undergo have IVF treatment and choose to have a deaf child. That doesn't mean they choose to keep the child if it turns out to be deaf, it means they actively choose through IVF to have a child that is deaf.

I thought Humphries' astutely delivered argument uncovered the interviewee's reasoning as perverse and nonsensical. You can decide for yourself by listening to the interview.

It is also the subject of this BBC News article.

4 comments:

Delishus said...

ah yes, another winner for the 8 O'clock toss-pot spot, the point on the Today programme where you've just recovered from Anne Bloody Atkins thought for the day and think it can't get any worse. I heard that one and stood with my jaw on the floor. Humphries was superb - how he managed not to laugh when the deaf guy said that he was missing out on all the deaf culture out there ... honestly!

Donna said...

Heard this on Radio5. In that interview, two deaf people do not see having a deaf child is a problem, the child stands to join a community with tradition and language, and yet they may be refused. They were concerned that deaf embryos may be destroyed as they don't fit a perfect ideal ... Shame on the pair of you! If this had been a race issue, you'd have been foaming at the mouth. Being deaf doesn't stop you having quality of life. Would you like to explain to the 9 million Deaf or Hard of Hearing people in Britain, that you think they are a cultural joke or not worth a life?? Hah, thought not :)

I could try for you, as I've bothered to learn a bit, but I would encourage them to give you a good kicking for being so small minded :P

Steve said...

Donna, I think you are jumping to conclusions that are wide of the mark. (Perhaps you haven't listened to the Today interview itself?)

As I've said before, this blog is not here as a debating chamber - I prefer to do that via email or other forums. But as it's you I'm going to clarify my position.

"two deaf people do not see having a deaf child is a problem".
Neither do I. However, the two deaf people do not see CHOOSING a deaf child as a problem and that is where I disagree with them.

"They were concerned that deaf embryos may be destroyed as they don't fit a perfect ideal ..."
I don't think screening a deaf embryo is the same as screening anything that is in any way imperfect, as deafness is by almost any definition a disability in our society, but I take your point.

"If this had been a race issue, you'd have been foaming at the mouth."
I'm no expert on IVF - though I know a fair bit - but I don't see how it is possible for a couple to have embryos of a different race from themselves, so I don't see a logical comparison here.

"Being deaf doesn't stop you having quality of life."
Agreed. (I never said otherwise.)

"Would you like to explain to the 9 million Deaf or Hard of Hearing people in Britain, that you think they are a cultural joke or not worth a life?? Hah, thought not :)"

I wouldn't like to explain to them that I think they are a cultural joke or not worth a life because they aren't my views. I don't see how you read that into my assertion that I agreed with the logic of John Humphries' arguments in his interview, which by the way wasn't the one you heard on Five Live and so could have been putting subtly different arguments. I have certainly noticed that the arguments have become more refined over the last couple of days as the debate has run on.

"I could try for you, as I've bothered to learn a bit, but I would encourage them to give you a good kicking for being so small minded :P"

I'm sorry you've misunderstood what I am saying here and even more sorry that you are so upset by it. I think you know very well that Scott is far from small-minded. Even if his comment seemed dismissive, I can understand why he was on the basis of that interview.

I've listened to and read much coverage of this over the last few days, from Five Live to The Moral Maze. It's not a cut and dry issue, that's why it is stirring up so much debate. But on balance I still stand on the side of the new law.

Donna said...

I was more amused by your moralising, than offended, hence the 'tongue out' smiley. But I guess at altitude, these things can be misread ;) ( and that's a cheeky wink smiley, in case you don't know).

The part I heard, on Victoria Derbyshire's show as I was elsewhere for R4, was the part where Tomarte was interpreted as saying that they had been told if they had equally viable embryos, one deaf and one hearing, the hearing one would be chosen and the deaf one would be discarded, and they would have no say. In effect, a slap in the face that a deaf embryo would not deserve the same chance as a hearing embryo. Not an issue to someone with hearing - probably a blessed relief in some cases - but to the Deaf couple it was cruel, insensitive and insulting.

So three cheers for Tomarte, even though he can't hear them,for standing up for his convictions. I'd be fairly confident he'd get the drift.

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