Instigator / Pro

Should Autism be cured?


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Contender / Con

Should Autism be cured? I, as an Autistic person, say no. Pro starts.

Round 1
There are many reasons not to cure Autism. First is the agency of Autistic people. The vast majority of Autistics (including me) are vehemently opposed to a cure for Autism. Note that this extends to more severely affected people as well. Our opinions about our own minds should be respected. Secondly, Autistics have made many valuable contributions to society. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and many others have all been autistic. Autism makes things like advanced math and engineering much easier. Autistics should be accepted in society, not eradicated from it.

To preface
we all assume that a hypothetical cure to autism is available, and we are arguing as to whether or not it should be used. I will both rebut and present my own case given the unstructured format of this debate. I won't define terms unless necessary as Pro has every right to argue for whatever situation was in his mind when he opened this debate challenge.

Pro's case against curing Autism:
  1. Most autistic people don't want to be cured 
  2. Autists make significant contributions that they couldn't make without autism.
In response to (1)
Pro seems to believe that curing autism involves the administration of a mandatory "cure" to autists, curing their autism. This isn't necessary to do in order to cure autism, as we know that autism is genetic (Hallmayer et al. 2011) and can be addressed in the unborn. Genetic diseases get harder to treat as an organism ages, and conversely easier to treat in younger individuals (Knoepfler, 2015). That's the rationale behind designer babies, and if any genetic cure were to be discovered, this is where it would first target. If there existed technology such that adults with autism can be cured, then such technology would easily and safely cure the unborn. 

Even if we grant that only adults with autism can be cured, we as a society are still morally obliged to make an autism cure mandatory. Autism inherently reduces the mean quality of life for a significant random sample of autistic individuals (Bertelli & Brown, 2006). As autism is propagated very easily through reproduction, it is immoral to expect that each next generation ought to suffer the quality of life reduction due to the free choice of the current generation to not cure autism. The psychopathology of autism is well understood, and our current scientific understanding of it is that it is an undesirable mental dysfunction (Brereton, Tonge & Einfeld, 2006). 

In refutation to (1), I have demonstrated that:
  • Autistic individuals don't need to 'surrender' their autism in order for autism to be cured.
  • Even if they did have to surrender their autism because a cure could only work on adults, they would be morally obliged to be cured and thus ought to be cured.
In response to (2)
Pro believes that autism has enabled individuals to make contributions they couldn't otherwise make, and thus autism shouldn't be cured. Aside from his contrived list of non autistic individuals, this is false for two main reasons.

The first reason is that autists generally have lower intelligence than normal individuals, with a high degree of variance (Kuehn, 2007). Epidemiology studies identify mental retardation as comorbid with autism (Bryson & Smith, 1998). While high functioning autists exist, the majority of people with autism live with substantial cognitive impairments. Pro argues that the contributions of the high functioning autists justifies the denial of a cure to those who are low functioning. This suggestion is ethically debased and does not speak to the well-being of most people with autism.

The second reason is that autism does nothing to assist scientific discoveries. Individuals are more capable of making scientific discoveries without autism, as having autism reduces an individual's employability (Burgess & Gutstein, 2007). If autism were cured, more autistic people would be working and thus there would be more scientists in the world. The status quo offers nothing of value.

In refutation to (2), I have demonstrated that:
  • It is unethical to deny a cure to a majority of autists suffering severe cognitive impairments for the sake of a few who benefit.
  • The suggestion that autism produces scientific advancements that wouldn't happen without autism is outright false.
The negative case:
  1. A cure for autism is necessary to improve outcomes for autists
My case quite simply is that autists have it rough, and a cure for autism would significantly improve quality of life. Most parents upon finding out that their unborn child has a high risk of autism will elect to terminate the pregnancy (Mansfield, Hopfer & Marteau, 1999). This choice is the morally superior choice as life for most people with autism is pretty miserable. Autists with the highest quality of life tended to be completely dependent on primary caregivers according to a longitudinal study by Billstedt, Gillberg and Gillberg (2011). A meta-analysis by Van Heijst and Geurts (2005) analysed studies of the quality of life in autists to conclude that overall quality of life was significantly lower than normal. 

It is not just to withhold a cure from individuals suffering a mental disability for any reason. I forward that any available cure be made accessible to the public as soon as practicably possible.

               Bertelli, M., & Brown, I. (2006). Quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(5), 508–513.

               Billstedt, E., Gillberg, I. C., & Gillberg, C. (2011). Aspects of quality of life in adults diagnosed with autism in childhood: A population-based study. Autism, 15(1), 7-20.

               Brereton, A. V., Tonge, B. J., & Einfeld, S. L. (2006). Psychopathology in children and adolescents with autism compared to young people with intellectual disability. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 36(7), 863-870.

               Bryson, S. E., & Smith, I. M. (1998). Epidemiology of autism: Prevalence, associated characteristics, and implications for research and service delivery. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 4(2), 97-103.

               Burgess, A. F., & Gutstein, S. E. (2007). Quality of life for people with autism: Raising the standard for evaluating successful outcomes. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 12(2), 80-86.

               Hallmayer, J., Cleveland, S., Torres, A., Phillips, J., Cohen, B., Torigoe, T., Miller, J., Fedele, A., Collins, J., Smith, K., Lotspeich, L., Croen, L.A., Ozonoff, S., Lajonchere, C., Grether, J.K., Risch, N. (2011) Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 68(11), 1095-102.

               Knoepfler, P. (2015) GMO Sapiens:The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies, pp 105-136. World Scientific. doi: 10.1142/9542 

               Kuehn, B. M. (2007). CDC: autism spectrum disorders common. Jama, 297(9), 940-940.

               Mansfield, C., Hopfer, S., & Marteau, T. M. (1999). Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review. Prenatal Diagnosis: Published in Affiliation With the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis, 19(9), 808-812.

              Van Heijst, B. F., & Geurts, H. M. (2015). Quality of life in autism across the lifespan: A meta-analysis. Autism, 19(2), 158-167.
Round 2
Round 3

Round 4
Round 5
Heil Smithis.