The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics has a theme issue (vol. 3, no. 2) out on "Disability Studies in Feminist Bioethics." The TOC is available here, and the issue is chock-a-block with fascinating, insightful reading. In particular, take a look at Margaret P. Wardlaw's* article entitled The Right-to-Die Exception: How the Discourse of Individual Rights Impoverishes Bioethical Discussions of Disability and What We Can do About it.
Here is the Abstract:
Major considerations of disability studies—such as provision of care, accommodation for disabled people, and issues surrounding institutionalization—have been consistently marginalized in American bioethical discourse. The right to die, however, stands out as a paradigmatic bioethical debate. Why do advocates for expanding the volition and self-direction of disabled people emerge from the periphery only to help those disabled people who choose death? And why do the majority of people assume an unrealistically low quality of life for those with disabilities? This paper will argue that the dominance of the Western liberal tradition in American culture motivates both these phenomena: by emphasizing individual rights over duties and responsibilities, assuming the isolated and independent rights-bearer as the prototypical person, and evoking an unrealistically atomistic view of human interaction. As an alternative, I offer a framework rooted in feminist ethics that emphasizes context, gives moral weight to human relationships, abandons the problematic ideal of a lone rights-bearer, and emphasizes the mutual vulnerability of embodied individuals.
I am so pleased to see such challenges to dominant individualist conventions in American bioethics, and both feminist and disability lenses provide particularly helpful vantage points for unpacking the weaknesses of what Charles Taylor refers to as "methodological individualism." If Wardlaw's topic interests readers, also check out Paul Longmore's powerful article, cited here, entitled Policy, Prejudice, and Reality: Two Case Studies of Physician-Assisted Suicide. I've taught this article on several occasions, and the students have almost uniformly reported it to be -- forgive the cliche -- paradigm-shifting.
Check out Wardlaw's article, and the entire issue.
(*Disclosure: Margaret Wardlaw is a friend and a colleague, as well as a graduate student with me during my training at IMH).