Cochlear implants, the deaf culture, and ethics: a study of disability, informed surrogate consent, and ethnocide

Monash Bioeth Rev. 2002 Jan;21(1):29-44. doi: 10.1007/BF03351265.


The use of cochlear implants in born-deaf infants addresses the issues of disability, proxy consent, and potential ethnocide of the Deaf culture. The ethical issues explored in this paper are: 1) the disability versus trait argument of deafness, 2) parents versus Deaf community in proxy consent, 3) justification for surgical intervention in a non-life threatening condition, and 4) justification for ethnocide. Decisions for non-competent individuals should be made to assure the child of an open future, with rights that need to be protected now, so that the child can exercise them later as an adult. Cochlear implants provide the potential of an open future and are morally justified on that basis.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool*
  • Civil Rights
  • Cochlear Implants / ethics*
  • Culture*
  • Deafness / psychology
  • Deafness / surgery*
  • Decision Making / ethics
  • Disabled Children* / psychology
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Humans
  • Infant*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / ethics
  • Third-Party Consent / ethics