Informed Consent, Deaf Culture, and Cochlear Implants


Lauren Pass and Abraham D. Graber


      While cochlear implantation is now considered routine in many parts of the world, the debate over how to ethically implement this technology continues. One’s stance on implantation often hinges on one’s understanding of deafness. On one end of the spectrum are those who see cochlear implants as a much needed cure for an otherwise intractable disability. On the other end of the spectrum are those who view the Deaf as members of a thriving culture and see the cochlear implant as an attempt to eliminate this culture.

      Rather than take a stance in this debate, we will argue that the informed consent process for cochlear implantation must include access to Deaf perspectives. Deaf individuals know best what it is like to be a member of the Deaf community; the reasonable person would put significant weight on the testimony of Deaf individuals when considering whether to undergo cochlear implantation. The reasonable person standard determines what information careproviders must present as part of the informed consent process; thus, informed consent for cochlear implantation requires access to the testimony of Deaf individuals.



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