Joseph A. Stramondo
Hastings Center Report
Volume 46, Issue 3, pages 22–30, May/June 2016
The deeply entrenched, sometimes heated conflict between the disability movement and the profession of bioethics is well known and well documented. Critiques of prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion are probably the most salient and most sophisticated of disability studies scholars’ engagements with bioethics, but there are many other topics over which disability activists and scholars have encountered the field of bioethics in an adversarial way, including health care rationing, growth-attenuation interventions, assisted reproduction technology, and physician-assisted suicide.
The tension between the analyses of the disabilities studies scholars and mainstream bioethics is not merely a conflict between two insular political groups, however; it is, rather, also an encounter between those who have experienced disability and those who have not. This paper explores that idea. I maintain that it is a mistake to think of this conflict as arising just from a difference in ideology or political commitments because it represents a much deeper difference—one rooted in variations in how human beings perceive and reason about moral problems. These are what I will refer to as variations of moral psychology. The lived experiences of disability produce variations in moral psychology that are at the heart of the moral conflict between the disability movement and mainstream bioethics. I will illustrate this point by exploring how the disability movement and mainstream bioethics come into conflict when perceiving and analyzing the moral problem of physician-assisted suicide via the lens of the principle of respect for autonomy. To reconcile its contemporary and historical conflict with the disability movement, the field of bioethics must engage with and fully consider the two groups’ differences in moral perception and reasoning, not just the explicit moral and political arguments of the disability movement.
The article is here.