Deaf Twins Euthanized; New Research Could Help
Public controversy has come to a boil over the twins in Belgium who decided to be euthanized after learning that they were going to lose their sight.
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The 45-year-old brothers, who were already deaf, asked to be put to death when they learned that soon they would never be able to physically see each other again. Since Belgium allows adults who are in extreme physical or mental distress to decide whether or not they wish to be euthanized, the brothers were legally allowed to say their good-byes to their friends and family on Dec. 14. More than 1,000 people legally chose doctor-assisted deaths in Belgium in 2011.
Yet this particular incident comes hard on the heels of new advances in medical technology that allow the deaf to hear and the blind to see. Most recently, a new implant was created by the Chalmers University of Technology to allow functionally deaf patients to hear. The implant essentially replaces the middle ear and uses the skull bone itself to transmit sound vibrations.
It's not only hearing that is receiving the benefits of medical research, though. Last May, two blind British men were fitted with electronic retinas so that they could perceive light and shapes. Other eye implants are also currently in development.
Although these new technologies are still in development and cannot be used in all cases, in the future it could be possible to give patients the option of choosing to hear and see again.