June 1, 2018
The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School 2018 annual conference was organized in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.
Historically and across societies people with disabilities have been stigmatized and excluded from social opportunities on a variety of culturally specific grounds. These justifications include assertions that people with disabilities are biologically defective, less than capable, costly, suffering, or fundamentally inappropriate for social inclusion. Rethinking the idea of disability so as to detach being disabled from inescapable disadvantage has been considered a key to twenty-first century reconstruction of how disablement is best understood.
Such ‘destigmatizing’ has prompted hot contestation about disability. Bioethicists in the ‘destigmatizing’ camp have lined up to present non-normative accounts, ranging from modest to audacious, that characterize disablement as “mere difference” or in other neutral terms. The arguments for their approach range from applications of standards for epistemic justice to insights provided by evolutionary biology. Conversely, other bioethicists vehemently reject such non-normative or “mere difference” accounts, arguing instead for a “bad difference” stance. “Bad difference” proponents contend that our strongest intuitions make us weigh disability negatively. Furthermore, they warn, destigmatizing disability could be dangerous because social support for medical programs that prevent or cure disability is predicated on disability’s being a condition that it is rational to avoid. Construing disability as normatively neutral thus could undermine the premises for resource support, access priorities, and cultural mores on which the practice of medicine depends.
The “mere difference” vs. “bad difference” debate can have serious implications for legal and policy treatment of disability, and shape strategies for allocating and accessing health care. For example, the framing of disability impacts the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and other legal tools designed to address discrimination. The characterization of disability also has health care allocation and accessibility ramifications, such as the treatment of preexisting condition preclusions in health insurance. The aim of this conference was to construct a twenty-first century conception of disablement that resolves the tension about whether being disabled is merely neutral or must be bad, examines and articulates the clinical, philosophical, and practical implications of that determination, and attempts to integrate these conclusions into medical and legal practices.
This event was free and open to the public.
Panel 4: Equality, Expertise, and Access
Natalie M. Chin, Assistant Professor of Clinical Law and Director, Disability and Civil Rights Clinic: Advocating for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Brooklyn Law School - Olmstead and the Role of State Government Agencies in Desexualizing Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
Leslie Francis, Alfred C. Emery Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, with adjunct appointments in Family and Preventive Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Political Science, University of Utah (with Anita Silvers) - Making “Meaningful Access” Meaningful: Equitable Healthcare for Divisive Times
Jasmine Harris, Acting Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law - Publicity As Antidiscrimination Law
Wendy Salkin, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, San Francisco State University (Fall 2018-) - Judicial Representation: Speaking for Others From the Bench
To learn more, go to: petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/events/details/2018-petrie-flom-center-annual-conference