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Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices

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FATHER: [The implant center] would give us options and give us literature and then say, you make up your own mind. And I appreciated that . . . because I think we are intelligent, educated people, and were able to make an informed decision, but they wouldnít give us any real guidance at all . . . . Handing my child over to a surgeon was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do. And I donít know that they could have increased that doubt any more.

INTERVIEWER: So you donít feel . . . [the implant center] was forcing anything on you?

FATHER: No, not at all. I mean, it [was] totally the opposite . . . . They . . . really wouldnít give us any guidance, even when we asked them . . . it was frustrating.

MOTHER: I think they realized that itís a decision that you need to make as a parent . . . itís not a decision that anyone can make for you.

Parents of a 2-year old boy implanted in 1998

They [the cochlear implant center] made me no promises. [As] a matter of fact, I really thought, Well, why didnít they try to get me a little more excited about this thing?. . . . But they guaranteed me nothing. They did not bring my hopes up at all, . . . they said she will never hear like a normal person. The implant is not a cure. It . . . doesnít restore hearing. When itís off she is still deaf. She is still going to be deaf. And you donít know how her spoken language will be, or how sheís going to do with it.

Mother of a 2-year-old girl implanted in early 1999

[At] our cochlear implant center, one of their requirements as you go through the evaluation process is that you read the papers of the NAD, the American Academy of Audiology, and the Cochlear Implant Club International, so you get the whole spectrum of opinion by doing that.

Mother of a 6-year-old daughter implanted in 1996
and a 2-year-old son implanted in 1998

The mother of a young boy who was implanted in 1996 said that, in the packet of information she received from the cochlear implant center:

MOTHER: There were two or three articles written by the deaf community; there was information from Cochlear, the company. They gave us names of other parents of children who had the implant, and we were able to meet other children who had the implant and to meet the parents and talk to them.

INTERVIEWER: So [the implant center] encouraged you to talk with deaf people who were not in favor of implants?

MOTHER: They did. They really did. Whether they were in favor or not. They encouraged us to look at everything, they really did.

Mother of a 4-year-old boy implanted in 1996