NYT on DSM-V

A few snippets from Benedict Carey’s recent New York Times article Psychiatrists Revise the Book of Human Troubles on the ongoing revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, expected to be published in 2012:

Is compulsive shopping a mental problem? Do children who continually recoil from sights and sounds suffer from sensory problems — or just need extra attention? Should a fetish be considered a mental disorder, as many now are? Panels of psychiatrists are hashing out just such questions, and their answers — to be published in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — will have consequences for insurance reimbursement, research and individuals’ psychological identity for years to come. The process has become such a contentious social and scientific exercise that for the first time the book’s publisher, the American Psychiatric Association, has required its contributors to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

You can read the whole article right here.

Peter Singer & Profound Intellectual Disability

[This post is the fifth in our new series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September.]

In a previous post, I questioned that Peter Singer’s position that moral status should be based on the demonstration of higher cognitive powers and not based on merely being human. In this post, I want to address his statement that the decision to keep children with profound mental retardation alive is acceptable as a parental choice but not an ethical obligation because such children have no moral status, since they lack the requisite higher cognitive powers. In making my case against this position, I intend to show that Singer’s arguments are based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of profound mental retardation or profound intellectual disability as it is more commonly called today. I doubt that Professor Singer has much personal experience with people with profound intellectual disabilities since his impression of them as a group seems very abstract and largely inaccurate. Although I would argue against the denial of moral status (and thereby of universal human rights) to people with profound intellectual disabilities, even if Singer’s assumptions about this group of people were true, I feel that it is important to correct the inaccurate assumptions presented about this group. Here is what Dr. Singer has to say about them:


Continue reading

CFP: ISHPSSB, Brisbane, July 12-16, 2009

Biennial Meeting, 12-16 July 2009, Brisbane, Australia

CALL FOR PAPERS (this information is also available from a link at the ISHPSSB meeting page: http://www.ishpssb.org/meeting.html)
Marsha Richmond and Manfred Laubichler, Program Co-Chairs

The 2009 meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology will take place from Sunday, 12 July, through Thursday, 16 July, at Emmanuel College, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia, hosted by the University of Sydney. ISHPSSB brings together scholars from diverse disciplines, including the life sciences as well as history, philosophy, and sociology of science. The ISHPSSB biennial summer conferences are known for their innovative, transdisciplinary sessions and for fostering informal, cooperative exchanges and on-going collaborations among a variety of international scholars. This will be the first meeting to be held in the southern hemisphere.

The aim of the conference is to facilitate the exchange of research ideas and results across a range of fields. The submission of papers and sessions on any topic within the society’s scope is welcomed. We also encourage the submission of posters, workshops, and general interest sessions based on themes identified in session proposals. It is our goal to develop a program that will allow maximal interactions, while also giving people the chance to present their ideas to their colleagues. …

Scholars wishing to attend the meeting are invited to submit session and paper proposals on the ISHPSSB website: http://www.ishpssb.org/meeting.html. Deadline for submissions is 1 February 2009. Continue reading

Defending Electroshock

The Alliance for Human Research Protection blog has a detailed and informative post that revolves around a recent National Public Radio broadcast on “Day to Day” that focuses on the forced electro-convulsive treatment (ECT) of a Minnesota man, Ray Sanford. The AHRP post ties this story, in interesting ways, to Shorter and Healy’s recent book on the history and return of ECT. The ARHP post ends with a quote from psychiatrist David Kaiser’s Psychiatric Times article from 1996, claiming it to be “as pertinent today as when he wrote it–except for his lack of knowledge about the hazardous effects of the new drugs”: Continue reading

The ethics of exclusion, the morality of abortion, and animals

[This post is the fourth in our new series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September.]

Here is a question from Adrienne Asch, together with a response from Jeff McMahan, following Jeff’s talk at the Cognitive Disability conference; Adrienne’s question followed directly on the heels of Naomi Scheman’s question, the subject of the previous post in this series.

[A full, unofficial transcript for this video clip, as well as a poll for you to participate in, are available beneath the fold. If you are having trouble playing the video above, the full transcript is provided at the end of the post, and you can also try Youtube directly by clicking right here, which for some will be more accessible.]

So does simply asking questions like “In virtue of what does human life have moral value and significance?” somehow express an ethics of exclusion? Asch seems to imply so, in part because it is asking us to draw a line between those that have some property, and those who lack it. Above the line are those with full moral status, and below it are The Rest, others who are thus excluded from full moral consideration, at least insofar as we consider them in and of themselves. If that is right, then even those who give very different kinds of answer to the question–such as those, like Naomi Scheman, who appeal to the relationships that people form a part of in their answers–still express this ethics of exclusion, at least at some level, even if they deliver an answer to the question that is more inclusive.

Asking the question as Asch has asked it—“Jeff, what is the purpose of this effort? If it is not the ethics of exclusion, I don’t know what it is.”—invites the personal response that McMahan gives to it. That response comes only after audience members are reminded that pro-choice views about abortion, popular with the politically liberal, express a kind of ethics of exclusion. I suspect that many of the disability theorists and activists in the room, perhaps influenced by Asch’s own work, don’t need reminding about this, at least when it comes to selective abortion on the basis of the results of genetic screening for “defects”. (See, for example, Adrienne Asch, 2003, “Disability Equality and Prenatal Testing: Contradictory of Compatible?”, Florida State University Law Review 315: 318-346–get this and thematically-related articles right here). McMahan got into this, he tells us, through thinking about the morality of abortion, and what it was about fetuses that made some people think that they should not be killed, while those same people were perfectly happy allowing all sorts of animals to be killed, and in some cases, eating them. McMahan’s answer is meant to provide an alternative to the answer that Asch herself seems to proffer. Where Asch sees an ethics of exclusion, McMahan sees the pursuit of abstract philosophical inquiry–albeit inquiry with real-world oomph–wherever it leads.

While one might see Asch and McMahan’s answer as alternatives, one need not; there is more than a grain of truth in each answer. Continue reading

something new from Singer

December 28, 2008
Harriet McBryde Johnson | b. 1957
Happy Nevertheless
By PETER SINGER
New York Times

I met Harriet McBryde Johnson in the spring of 2001, when I was giving a lecture at the College of Charleston. Her brand of Southern etiquette prescribed that if you’re not prepared to shoot on sight, you have to be prepared to shake hands, so when I held out mine, she reached up from her powered wheelchair and took it with the three working fingers on her right hand. She added that she was attending my lecture as a supporter of Not Dead Yet, the disability rights organization that a year and a half earlier blockaded Princeton University’s Nassau Hall in protest against my appointment as a professor of bioethics. I told her I looked forward to an interesting exchange.

My lecture, “Rethinking Life and Death,” was a defense of the position that had aroused such vehement opposition. I pointed out that physicians routinely withdraw life support from severely disabled newborns, and I argued that this is not very different from allowing parents to decide, in consultation with their doctors, to end the life of a baby when the child has disabilities so serious that the family believes this will be best for the child or for the family as a whole.

When I finished, Johnson, who was born with a muscle-wasting disease, spoke up. I was saying, she pointed out, that her parents should have been permitted to kill her shortly after her birth. But she was now a lawyer, enjoying her life as much as anyone. It is a mistake, she said, to believe that having a disability makes life less worth living.

Our exchange of views continued for a few minutes in the lecture theater, and by e-mail afterward. Years later, when I read her autobiographical book, “Too Late to Die Young,” I wasn’t surprised to see “arguing hard” listed among the pleasures of her life.

The following year, Continue reading

Conference – The Inclusive Museum – Of Interest to What Sorts Folk

SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE INCLUSIVE MUSEUM
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
8-11 July 2009
http://www.Museum-Conference.com

At this time of fundamental social change, what is the role of the museum, both as a creature of that change, and perhaps also as an agent of change? The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum is a place where museum practioners, researchers, thinkers and teachers can engage in discussion on the historic character and future shape of the museum. The key question of the Conference is ‘How can the institution of the museum become more inclusive?’

Plenary speakers include:
*Stephane Martin, President, Ensemble Intercontemporain; CEO, Musée du quai Branly
*Alissandra Cummins, President of ICOM; Director, Barbados Museums and Historical Society, Barbados
*Kevin Gover, Director, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., USA
*Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua, Principal Cultural Development Officer, Ministry of Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage and Regional Development, Fiji
*Dawn Casey, Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
*David Throsby, Professor of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
*Marcus Wood, Professor, University of Sussex, UK
*Craddock Morton, Director, National Museum of Australia; President, ICOM Australia
*Catherine Branson, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

In addition, Continue reading

What are the deep facts about our moral status?

[This post is the third in our new series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September.]

What are the deep facts about our moral status? Have your say in a poll at the end of this post!!

Jeff McMahan and Peter Singer have posed the following question, both in their talks for the Cognitive Disability conference, and in their past work: In virtue of what does human life have moral value and significance? They have been especially interested in answers to this question, which are easy to elicit from common sense, that appeal to the properties that human lives embody (e.g., human beings have certain cognitive capacities). They are also both interested in challenging those who would give such answers to think harder about the ways in which we disvalue non-human animal life. More specifically, both Singer and McMahan are skeptical of the coherence of views, including property-based views, that value all forms of human life more highly than all forms of animal life. This is chiefly because not all non-human animal life lacks value-conferring properties, and because not all human life comes with those properties.

There were several especially interesting questions that arose in the question period following McMahan’s talk, one from Naomi Scheman, the other from Adrienne Asch; I’ll comment on just the Scheman one here, and on the Asch question, and the following interchange with McMahan, separately. Here’s the Scheman question (a full transcript of what she says is available beneath the fold):

The clip can be found in podcast #36, the question and answer to Jeff McMahan’s talk (and final podcast on the page), from around 35.45 – 39.00 at the conference website. You can also view it directly at Youtube if you are having trouble playing the video clip above by clicking right here.

Scheman is saying many things here (including things about thought experiments and analogies that I found confusing), but I want to focus on just two of them. Continue reading

Reparations for Eugenic Sterilization in North Carolina?

From the Associated Press, courtesy of DAWG Oregon; it looks like the reference (below the fold) to Illinois as the first state to enact sterilization should be to Indiana, though if I’m misreading this (or am just wrong), let us know! Note that the dates for eugenic sterilization in NC were 1929-1975, almost the same as for Alberta, 1929-1975. *****

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers pushed Thursday to offer reparations to thousands of victims of a forced sterilization program now recognized as a shameful part of U.S. history.

A state House panel recommended the state give $20,000 to victims of the eugenics program, which sterilized about 7,600 people between 1929 and 1975 who were considered to be mentally handicapped or genetically inferior. Though North Carolina and several other states have apologized, none had offered reparations.

“Yes, it is ugly. It’s not something that we’re proud,” said state Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, who has been working on the issue for several years. “But I’m glad that North Carolina has done more than any other state to step forward and not run away from it.” Lawmakers in the full General Assembly will have to approve the idea. They convene next month. Continue reading

CNN article: Children forced into cell-like school seclusion rooms

By Ashley Fantz
CNN

MURRAYVILLE, Georgia (CNN) – A few weeks before 13-year-old Jonathan King killed himself, he told his parents that his teachers had put him in “time-out.”

The room where Jonathan King hanged himself is shown after his death. It is no longer used, a school official said.

[Two photos taken after Jonathan King's death show the interior and exterior of the steel door to the cell where he hanged himself . In the photo on the right, which shows the inside of the cell, we can see the cord Jonathan used to hang himself tied to the metal cage-like window of the door. A school official has said that the room is no longer used.]

“We thought that meant go sit in the corner and be quiet for a few minutes,” Tina King said, tears washing her face as she remembered the child she called “our baby … a good kid.”

But time-out in the boy’s north Georgia special education school was spent in something akin to a prison cell — a concrete room latched from the outside, its tiny window obscured by a piece of paper. Called a seclusion room, it’s where in November 2004, Jonathan hanged himself with a cord a teacher gave him to hold up his pants. An attorney representing the school has denied any wrongdoing.

Seclusion rooms, sometimes called time-out rooms, are used across the nation, generally for special needs children. Critics say that along with the death of Jonathan, many mentally disabled and autistic children have been injured or traumatized. Few states have laws on using seclusion rooms, though 24 states have written guidelines, according to a 2007 study conducted by a Clemson University researcher.

Read the entire CNN article here: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/12/17/seclusion.rooms/index.html

Thanks to Doug Baynton for alerting members of the Disability Studies in the Humanities listserv to this article.

Singer’s Assault on Universal Human Rights

[This post is the second in our new series of Thinking in Action posts, the series being devoted initially at least to discussion of talks at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC in September.]

Following Rob Wilson’s Singer on Parental Choice, Disability, and Ashley X , I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own about Peter Singer’s talk at the recent Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy conference. These comments address issues in parental choice and the protection of universal human rights.

Clip 1: Cognitive abilities and moral status. A transcript of this video clip appears at the end of this post. Some parts that are particularly relevant to this post appear in red letters.

Dr. Singer suggests that parents should be allowed to make whatever decisions they consider in the best interests of children who have severe disabilities. This is based on two important assumptions: (1) Parents can accurately determine the best interests of their children, and (2) Knowing their children’s best interests parents will choose to act according to those interests. Before examining these assumptions in regard to the particular case of children with disabilities, severe or otherwise, we need to examine these assumptions in regard to other children.

Clip 2: Parental Choice and Ashley X. A transcript of this video clip appears at the end of this post. Some parts that are particularly relevant to this post appear in red letters.

Do parents always know what is in their children’s best interests, and as a society do we grant parents the unlimited right to determine those interests? Continue reading

Project Possibility: expanding universal design

J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Students at the University of Southern California are shown preparing to present their program at a competition aimed at helping disabled people expand their access to computers.

Published: December 17, 2008

ONE computer program would allow vision-impaired shoppers to point their cellphones at supermarket shelves and hear descriptions of products and prices. Another would allow a physically disabled person to guide a computer mouse using brain waves and eye movements.

The two programs were among those created by eight groups of volunteers at a two-day software-writing competition this fall. The goal of the competition, sponsored by a nonprofit corporation, is to encourage new computer programs that help disabled people expand their capabilities.

The corporation, set up by computer science students and graduates at the University of Southern California, is named Project:Possibility. It grew out of an idea two years ago by Christopher Leung, then a master’s degree candidate in computer science and engineering at the university, who was working on a project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Read the entire NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/18/business/smallbusiness/18edge.html?th&emc=th

About Face(s): here’s an article from the L.A. Times about a face transplant

Woman undergoes face transplant in Cleveland

Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic replace about 80% of her face with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver. It’s the most extensive such operation ever performed and the first in the U.S.
By Karen Kaplan and Shari Roan
December 17, 2008
A woman being treated at the Cleveland Clinic has an almost entirely new face following the most extensive facial transplant ever performed, the medical center said Tuesday. The surgery was the first face transplant in the U.S. and the fourth in the world.

Few details about the patient have been released in advance of a news conference scheduled for today. About 80% of the patient’s face was replaced with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver.

The family of the patient has asked that her name and age not be released so she can remain anonymous, the clinic said. It was not clear when the surgery took place.

Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeon who performed the marathon procedure, is well known among microsurgery specialists, and colleagues were quick to praise the achievement. They said face transplants would become routine in the coming years.

“We’re on the threshold of a whole new way of correcting defects,” said Dr. Warren C. Breidenbach of the University of Louisville, who performed the first hand transplant in the United States.

Read the entire article at the link below:
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-sci-facetransplant17-2008dec17,0,6148948.story?track=ntothtml

Blind review

A movie review site lets you know how easy reviewed films are to watch by the visually impaired. In my home town (Toronto) the Edge radio station had a blind movie reviewer who was featured on the morning show. I think it was supposed to be tongue in cheek but the reviewer was really intelligent and witty, and he did report back on how easy it was to figure out what was going on.

Peter Singer on Parental Choice, Disability, and Ashley X

This post kicks off a series of posts at What Sorts that we hope will appear every Tuesday and Friday over the next few months called Thinking in Action. In the first instance, this series will offer commentaries on talks and discussions at the recent conference Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy. The aims of these Thinking in Action posts will be to generate and advance discussion of specific issues that arise in taking up the themes of the conference. The posts will typically feature a relatively short clip from a talk or discussion at the conference, followed by a commentary; transcripts of all excerpted video clips will appear at the end of each post. In light of our experience with this first (extended) round of posts, we’ll see whether we continue the series with clusters of posts with other thematic focuses. We will both tag and categorize each post with the series label “Thinking in Action” so that you can review them together, if you like, and we encourage the use of posts in the series in classrooms, in local discussion groups, and in organizations at the interface of government, university, and community. We will aim to make each of these self-contained, with the conference podcasts themselves serving as a larger reservoir of perspectives on cognitive disability on which you can draw. We hope that you will join in the discussions, both on the blog and beyond it.

To help us get some idea of what readers know about the conference podcasts we’ll be discussing, here’s a quick poll that we encourage you to take before proceeding.

As one might expect, Peter Singer’s talk at the conference Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy, presents ideas that Singer is well-known for. Amongst these are views that draw parallels between animals, on the one hand, and individuals with disabilities, on the other, especially those with “profound mental retardation”, a medical category that includes, amongst other features, having an IQ of 25 or below. I want to kick off this series of blog posts not with a discussion of that general comparison—though Dick Sobsey might well take that up in the next few posts—but by concentrating on something in Singer’s talk focused on the issue of parental rights and disability. Here is Singer, toward the end of his talk, presenting the perspectives of parents. Singer points out that, as a group, parents of children with disabilities divide over their views of their own children. Although it is a little unclear, even from the fuller context, precisely what “this issue” is that parents divide over, it concerns pain, death, and quality of life:

[This clip is from Singer's talk at the Cognitive Disability conference, podcast #15: 33.30 – 38.02] If you are having trouble playing the video above, the full transcript is provided at the end of the post, and you can also try Youtube directly by clicking right here.

I want to raise three points about what Singer says here. Continue reading

Starting next Tuesday: What Sorts Challenges

Next Tuesday we will kick off a series of posts at What Sorts that will appear over the next few months every Friday and Tuesday that offer commentaries on talks and discussions at the recent conference Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy. The conference organizers have posted full podcasts of the talks and discussions from the conference at the above site, and a few of us have spent the last month, on the side, figuring out what we might put together on this. Tune in on Tuesday to see, and join in any ensuing discussion. Comments on the blog are now moderated, but we would expect to be able to put these up shortly after they appear, in the vast majority of cases.

The chief aim of these posts will be to generate and/or advance discussion of specific issues that arise in taking up the themes of the conference. Commentaries will typically feature a relatively short clip from a talk or discussion at the conference, followed by a commentary; transcripts of all excerpted video clips will appear at the end of the post. Those interested in the full podcasts can head over to the site for those, and those who want to take the commentaries on their own can do that as well.

We hope that you will join in the discussions, both on the blog and beyond it, and will find the commentaries to be self-contained enough to share in other venues. Please let others know whom you think might be interested in checking this out, in participating, or in spreading the word.

Rape victims at fault?

Of the 15% of women who actually report their rape, 80% of cases are dropped by police- why? Insufficient evidence 21%, victim withdrawal 17%, victim denied to complete the initial process 17%, offender not identified 13%, false allegation 12%, insufficient evidence 5%, no prospect of conviction 2%, not in public interest 1%, other %12 (Stats from 2001/2)

Feminist philosophers reported, a little while ago, that in the UK victims of rape have been considered 25% culpable for the crimes committed against them if they were drinking- at least for the past year, anyway. Now, the claim is that this was never the policy of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. But it took the successful appeal of one victim to bring them to the conclusion that this in fact is what the policy states- and hers wasn’t the first appeal.

Interestingly, on the audio interview with the victim’s solicitor she says that the policy was that drinking would be taken into consideration, and in fact a prior appeal had been put for full compensation for a rape victim who had been drinking but her appeal had been denied. Now, however, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice says that it was a matter of misapplication of the policy in these prior cases. What seems to be the case is that there was a policy that drinking would be considered in compensating victims, but that the unwritten intention of this policy referred to cases where victims clearly bring things on themselves, such as when someone drinks too much and starts fights. But it also seems to be the case that for any number of crimes such as mugging or robbery, alcohol consumption by the victim may still be considered (the justice minister admits as much). So, in some cases victims may be responsible for crimes committed against them, except in cases of rape. Seems unlikely to me. I support the extra protection offered to victims of sexual assault provided by the justice system, but I do think that clarifying their policies for themselves if no one else, is essential to providing a sense that justice is served and maintaining public trust. There is clearly a sense in the UK that rape can be a victim’s fault, otherwise the 15 cases of victims being told as much would not have happened (check out the appalling discussion below this article- man after man saying women falsely accuse, protect the accused, etc. etc “Part of the problem is the fact that so many women are falsely accusing men of rape nowadays. A woman gets drunk and gives consent, yet in the morning can accuse the male of rape”). In order to change public thinking about the issue, it seems that Continue reading

Getting into the body of another

courtesy of World Science

Ever wonder what it’s like to be in the body of another person, psychologically speaking? Sure! Well, now scientists in Sweden have created that feeling in a couple of experiments:

In a first ex­pe­ri­ment, they fit­ted the head of a shop dum­my with two cam­er­as con­nect­ed to two small screens placed in front of the sub­jects’ eyes, so that they saw what the dum­my “saw.” When the dum­my’s cam­era eyes and a sub­jec­t’s head were di­rect­ed down­wards, the sub­ject saw the dum­my’s body where he or she would nor­mally have seen his or her own.

Continue reading

BroadReach Screening Room

Norm Kunc and Emma Van der Klift have been leaders in the Canadian Disability Advocacy movement for many years, and are highly respected and sought after international speakers and consultants on disability issues. Among other achievements, they have produced some thoughtful and interesting short videos, such as Euthanasia Blues and Credo for Support. Continue reading