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Topic: Disability
May 20, 2013 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, LMSW, MS

Helping individuals with mental retardation maximize their autonomy and enjoy fulfilling quality life experiences is often at the core of ethical arguments surrounding healthcare options for individuals with these disabilities. Having worked with adults with mental retardation I have known some who gave birth, some who got married, and many who were sexually active. There are ranges in function and comprehension in any population group, and the options ought to apply fairly with consideration for the patient’s preferences and best interests guiding decision making. I will argue that in some cases, sterilization promotes autonomy and ought to be considered an option for those with mental retardation as it is for those without any cognitive impairment.  The benefits are the same for person with mental retardation as for any individual – freedom to engage in sexual activity without the risk if unwanted pregnancy. Unlike the old sterilization policies which allowed procedures to be performed over the objections of patients and guardians, this elective procedure may be permissible if an appropriate consent process is in place and engages the patient and his or her support network in the conversation. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

November 14, 2012 | Posted By Mae Huo

At the end of the article “Disability and narrative: new directions for medicine and the medical humanities” Rebecca Garden states, “However, rather than ‘coping with’ or ‘overcoming’ their impairments, many disabled people see their impairments as integral to their lives.”  This may have been the most important, and overlooked, message regarding new directions in medicine for working with people with disabilities.  I would like to share a personal story that illustrates this point.

I’ve been short all my life, but always just too tall to be considered disabled.  When I lived in China, every adult was always trying to get me to grow, like I had a choice in the matter.  They’d either bring up the fact that I can’t get a job since there’s a height requirement for pretty much every occupation (I wanted to be a teacher and the height requirement for that was the ability to reach the top of the chalkboard) or they’d have these false hopes and reassured me over and over again that I simply have one last growth spurt to hit (at that time, I was visiting family and already 18 years old).  I was fine with my height and the incessant chatter was extremely discouraging and annoying.  When I came to America and learned that most civilian jobs had no height requirement, I was so happy to be leaving the Chinese thinking regarding height impairment.  Here, in the land of accessibility ramps, being short would not affect my life style and I can go into any career that I’d like.  I will no longer hear people sigh at me or look down upon me, no pun intended. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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