Journal of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation & Disabilities Category: Medical Type: Research Article
The Voluntary Practice of Eugenics: Risk-Taking and Religiosity as Determinants of Attitudes Toward Conceiving Children with Potential Genetic Disorders and Inheritable Diseases
- Roy K Chen1*, Allison R Fleming2, Lisa Kuhn3, Amanda L Foster3
- 1 School Of Rehabilitation Services And Counseling, University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas, United States
- 2 Department Of Educational Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, United States
- 3 Department Of Physician Assistant, University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas, United States
*Corresponding Author:Roy K Chen
School Of Rehabilitation Services And Counseling, University Of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas, United States
Received Date: Apr 02, 2017 Accepted Date: May 12, 2017 Published Date: May 19, 2017
Religion and disability
Religion can help individuals with disabilities cope, find meaning in their newly constructed reality, achieve contentment and create new goals [15,16,18]. Pragament and Brant  showed that religion can produce either successful or unsuccessful mechanisms of coping, depending on the situation and the individual. For instance, one individual may use religion as a source of strength in order to cope with a situation, while another may have negative perceptions of religion as a result of unfavorable experiences relating to his or her process of adjusting to disability. These negative experiences can often be attributed to the perceptions of members of religious communities and historical religious ideas about disability.
In the past, certain religious tenets and principles (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) argued that individuals with disabilities were burdens or punishments from god [10,20]. Judaism sees individuals with disabilities as negative mortifications of god. In essence, Judaism assumes that disabilities are celestial punishments and that individuals with disabilities are tainted. The contamination of these people is also believed to be capable of spreading and polluting society . Israelites believed that men with disabilities were less than men and excluded them from the temple. In Christianity, persons with disabilities are believed to be the vessels through which God conveys mercy and power, born to illustrate God’s power . Christian theologians believe that the presence of disabilities, specifically intellectual disabilities, indicates the possibility of inheritable immorality . This belief was used to support the eugenics movements in the United States and Nazi Germany . Of the Abrahamic traditions, Islamic beliefs are the most inclusive and supportive of civil protection for persons with disabilities . Islam believes that excluding individuals with disabilities from the general and religious community is an act of indignity and disrespect toward Allah . In Islam individuals with disabilities are not identified by their disabilities in a social or religious context . Disabilities are also considered to be gatekeepers for opportunities of restitution . In sum, the Islamic belief system affirms the normalization of individuals with disabilities and considers disability to fall within the vast range of characteristics of the human condition, as prescribed by Allah .
Religion can play a significant role in the overall quality of life of individuals with disabilities. Turner et al.  conducted a study examining the religious expression of 29 adults with intellectual disabilities, including Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Catholics. They found that the participants had strong, lucid, and positive understandings of religious identity. In addition, the participants were most likely to employ religious expression during incidences of indifference and hostility. The study identified two main benefits of religion . The first was religious expression. The participants who had faith exhibited an ability to establish meaning and cope with many aspects of their lives. The second was religious connectedness, or the participants’ sense belonging to God and the community.
The influence of religion on decision-making
Reproduction decisions are partially influenced by the magnitude of perceived risk that two adults are willing to bear [30,33]. An action that involves accepting uncertainty and possible undesirable consequences is considered to represent risk-taking [34-36]. Risk-taking is natural for many individuals and can manifest in various behaviors . Primary risk behaviors that are commonly discussed in the literature include gambling, reckless driving, promiscuity, sensation-seeking, impulsive tendencies, and participating in dangerous sports [34,37,38]. Most literature regarding risk-taking focuses on the actions a person takes that produce uncertainty; however, it is important to recognize that individuals may also acquire risk when refraining from action . Three factors have been identified as contributing to such inaction are procrastination, avoidance, and regret avoidance . Personal experience and individual attitudes can also foster a risk-taking mindset . People with parents who are highly educated are more inclined to choose risky paths in life . Moreover, women tend to be more risk averse than men . It is, therefore, important to acknowledge individuals’ attitudes concerning the level of risk in every aspect of their lives. The outcome of taking risk or not taking risk can help predict an individual’s future. For couples in which at least one member has a disability, it is especially important to recognize the risk of bearing a child with a disability . With a sound understanding of the risks associated with passing on an inheritable disease or disability to their offspring, such couples can wisely weigh the consequences and joys of being parents to children with disabilities.
The selective reproduction of desirable characteristics in the human race is a hotly contested issue that draws support from such eugenicists as Charles Darwin, Peter Singer and opposition from bioethicists and disability rights advocates. Sterilization, when used as preventative medicine, offers individuals who are carriers of defective genes the choice to prevent passing these genes on to their offspring. In the past, the United States, Australia, and Nazi Germany systematically practiced eugenics on citizens with disabilities . Governments often used social costs, risk aversion theory, and the principle of utilitarianism to justify the implementation of such a policy to prevent people with genetic defects and inheritable diseases from producing babies likely to be burdens to society. Prior research has focused solely on the unethical practice of forcing the sterilization of people with mental retardation. The present study was the first to examine attitudes toward the voluntary practice of eugenics among people with high - risk inheritable diseases and genetic disorders. It aimed to determine what characteristics might affect individuals’ views on this topic. Specifically, the study examined the linear combination of such variables as personal religiosity, risk-taking, age, gender, a disabled family member, college major, and race. In so doing, it addressed the following research question: What are the relationships between personal characteristics (e.g., race, gender, having a family member with a disability), attitudes toward risk-taking and the importance of religion, and people’s views on potential offspring with genetic disorders?
Participant recruitment and data collection
Data preparation and analysis
|4. Family member with a disabilityd||0.24||0.43||0.012||-0.072||0.027||–|
|5. Risk avoidance scale||26.5||7.08||0.271**||0.026||0.189**||-0.001||–|
|6. Religiosity importance scale||24.42||7.9||-0.143**||-0.057||-0.091||-0.007||-0.151**||–|
|7. Attitude scale||38.75||7.14||0.038||0.034||-0.127||-0.078||-0.146**||-0.100*||–|
a: Female = 0, Male = 1;
b: Hispanic or Latino = 1, White = 2, Asian American = 3, Black or African American = 4, Native American = 5, Multicultural = 6;
c: Physician Assistant = 1, Business = 2, Engineering = 3;
d: No = 0, Yes = 1.
|Gender x family member||342.24||1||342.24||7.29||0.01||0.11|
A pre - planned contrast in marginal means between racial groups showed that students of Asian descent had significantly more negative attitudes toward potential offspring with genetic disorders (p = 0.039). Figure 1 shows a graph of the contrast. A further analysis was conducted to explore the interaction between gender and having a family member with a disability. The results showed that for females, there were no group differences between those who had family members with disabilities and those who did not; however, for males, those who had family members with disabilities reported significantly more positive attitudes toward offspring with genetic disorders. Figure 2 shows a bar graph of this interaction effect.
These results, while important, must be considered within the context of several limitations. Our volunteer sample was recruited from selected courses offered to students of particular majors. While our response rate was high, we cannot be certain that the responses were representative. Social desirability bias may have influenced how participants answered the questions. Additional research is needed to identify and clarify the factors that influence attitudes toward disability, particularly with respect to eugenics. Because the study participants were recruited from two institutions of higher education located in a southern state and a southwestern state, the generalizability of the findings may not be applicable to individuals who live in other parts of the United States. The study sample was drawn from two universities located in two different states. We acknowledge that we used a convenience sample because the first two authors were affiliated with these universities.
Attitudes regarding eugenics are closely tied to attitudes toward disabilities and disabling conditions. A common assumption is that quality of life is dependent on good health; therefore, any medical condition or disability will negatively impact quality of life . This differs significantly from the perceptions of many people who have disabilities or are involved in rehabilitation and disability studies, in which the philosophy is disabilities are a natural part of human existence and that quality of life is dependent on such factors as personal perceptions of well - being, choice, control, self - concept, and social environment [5,48]. These two views delineate distinct models of disability: the medical model and the sociopolitical model. The medical model is diagnosis - driven, purporting that disability is a pathology or deformity . The sociopolitical model suggests that the greatest disability - related barrier is the discrimination, prejudice, and lack of opportunity experienced by people with disabilities both in the United States and worldwide . Disability in and of itself is not a disadvantage, and advocacy and social change may address the kinds of barriers that people with disabilities experience. It follows naturally that an individual’s perceptions of disabilities and their impact on quality of life will influence the individual’s feelings about eugenics and babies with genetic disorders and congenital conditions.
With the expansion of prenatal testing, greater importance has been assigned to understanding attitudes toward children (born or unborn) with congenital conditions. Prenatal testing can be a hotly debated issue, especially in terms of who decides and defines what traits are desirable in babies. What would parents who dream of their child becoming the next great athlete or mathematician do if their unborn child had a disability? The results of studies with parents at risk of carrying children with congenital disorders (e.g., down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida) have shown that access to information about resources available to families and the quality of life of children with disabilities can impact couples’ decision . Prior research suggests that major barriers in obtaining health care services, as described by people with disabilities, are the negative attitudes and behaviors of health personnel . Particularly among individuals trained from a solely medical-model perspective, attitudes toward disability may affect the treatment of individuals and families, and the provision of care and advice. This is especially true among medical professionals who consider the severity of disability impairment to be directly related to quality of life [5,48].
The results also suggest that cultural factors, such as those related to race/ethnicity or religious values, also impact disability attitudes. Consistent with the results from our sample, previous studies have found that some Asian cultures perceive disability as a family burden; this may lead individuals to express more negative attitudes toward disability [49,51]. In some cultures, disability is perceived to be a punishment from God and, therefore, a source of shame [46,52]. Studies suggest that exposure to information about and experience with persons with disabilities, including those with congenital conditions, may improve knowledge and comfort addressing disability issues. However, we have little evidence that information alone influences attitudes and beliefs about disability and eugenics . Other methods, such as social influence, ongoing contact with individuals with disabilities, and impression management approaches may be more useful in changing attitudes [54-56]. These findings are preliminary and need to be expanded and replicated before strong conclusions can be drawn. However, the findings that experience with disability may have a positive influence on values, particularly among men, and that risk avoidance and culture may also influence these values may be useful in counseling, health and rehabilitation settings.
In conclusion, people come in different shapes and sizes. The selection of existence is arbitrary and implies that only healthy individuals, and not those with disabilities, are desirable for society. The present study sheds light on the public’s attitudes toward the voluntary practice of eugenics. Race, gender, college major, religiosity, a disabled family member and possession of a risk - taking trait are found to be important determinants. The direction of future research is suggested to focus on individuals with existing genetic disorders and inheritable diseases. Similar studies may also be replicated in countries where abortion procedures are either strictly prohibited or easily available.
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Citation:Chen RK, Fleming AR, Kuhn L, Foster AL (2017) The Voluntary Practice of Eugenics: Risk-Taking and Religiosity as Determinants of Attitudes Toward Conceiving Children with Potential Genetic Disorders and Inheritable Diseases. J Phys Med Rehabil Disabil 3: 018.
Copyright: © 2017 Roy K Chen, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.