The US Healthcare Debate

During the time that I have worked with the What Sorts Network, I have often asked myself the following:

Is the denial of care to persons with disabilities a necessary feature of universal healthcare or one that is entirely contingent on attitudes towards people with disabilities? If it’s a necessary feature, which system do we pick?

I was too young to be aware of the accusations leveled against Clinton’s healthcare reform, so I was interested and surprised to see that the healthcare debate in the US has turned to these questions. After reading an article this morning (False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots) and commenting there, I thought I would bring the discussion back to our blog.

I worry that the denial of care to persons with disabilities is a necessary (and extremely undesirable) feature of universal healthcare, because some type of triage appears to be necessary–people will only be willing to sink a certain amount of money into healthcare and those facing triage will disproportionately be the elderly and people with certain disabilities.

As an American living in Canada, I have seen low-income individuals in the US, more often than not minorities and other socially vulnerable groups, denied even routine care (like the setting of broken bones) because they were unable to pay for it. I have also heard the stories of Annie Farlow, Katya Sansalone, and Kyle MacDonald in Canada. I don’t have enough information to come to any sort of conclusion, so I would be very interested in what our readers think. What are your responses to my questions?

WCPA Talks: The History and Relevance of the Eugenic Movement

Below are all 12 posts from our series of WCPA talks, Philosophy, Eugenics, and Disability in Alberta and Places North. The presentations are a helpful introduction to the history of the eugenic movement and how that history is important today. Dick Sobsey and Simo Vehmas discuss the North American and Scandinavian histories, respectively. Martin Tweedale and Rob Wilson focus on the importance of these histories to current practical issues: Martin on how the history of eugenics in Alberta should affect some of the University of Alberta’s policies, Rob on how the preservation of the history of eugenics in Alberta can serve a reconciliatory purpose.

 All videos contain transcripts and the videos are also available on YouTube. Comments on the blog on any of these posts is still welcome, but we also hope that you’ll find these of interest and use down the track for individual reflection or group discussion.

Thanks to our speakers and attendees for making these presentations interesting and possible. 


Varieties of Eugenics Experience in the 21st Century – Dick Sobsey Parts 1 & 2 and Parts 3 & 4

Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives – Simo Vehmas Part 1, 2, 3, and the Q&A

Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy – Martin Tweedale Parts 1& 2, 3&4, and the Q&A

Building Inclusive Communities Through the Practice of Collective Memory: The Case of Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta – Rob Wilson Parts 1, 2, and 3

The Fragility of “Normal”

This week’s print edition of Maclean’s features an article by Mark Steyn blaming gay rights advocates for the “imminent threat” of legalized polygamy in Canada. Once you make one amendment to what is normal, Steyn claims, you won’t be able–or even justified–to prevent further changes.

The article is interesting for two reasons. First, naturally, there is no mention of what relevant differences there are between the two forms of marriage. Steyn ignores a vast body of literature on the subject, which is more than a slight oversight for a journalist. Second, Steyn’s underlying attitude appears to be that we should fear any departure from normal, where the definition of normal he uses is typified by the pretty, white suburbs of 60 years ago.

I recommend reading it, and perhaps writing a letter.

In Theaters: Late Bloomer

Late Bloomer (Osoi Hito) chronicles the life of Sumida, a disabled man in Japan, who is played by disabled actor Masayiko Sumida. Midnight Eye provides an extensive and informative review. Here is a short excerpt:

“Late Bloomer is the story of Sumida-san, a severely handicapped man, and his downward spiral into hell. When we’re first introduced to him we find that despite his physical limitations – and contrary to cultural misconceptions about the handicap – he has all of the desires and personality traits of a physically normal man. Specifically: he loves to party, eat good food, and ‘rock out’ to his caregiver Take’s hardcore band. However, Sumida-san’s life begins falling apart when he develops a crush on his new occasional caregiver, Nobuko. Needless to say, the feelings are not reciprocated and when Nobuko starts spending her free time with Take, Sumida-san is driven mad with desire and frustration and things take a turn for the worse… Continue reading

Normalizing Gender for Olympians

An opinion piece in the New York Times by Jennifer Finney Boylan, “The XY Games”, explores the practice of gender testing in the Olympics to determine that female athletes are in fact female. The author discusses the history of this testing, its faults, and the ambiguity of sex and gender. Amongst some of the things that one might want to discuss is the following:

“So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it? Continue reading

What’s in a Name? Well, Everything.

The Wall Street Journal has an article this week on a regulation being drafted by the Bush Administration regarding pregnancy, stating that the

proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying ‘the life of a human being.’

Continue reading

What Sorts of Families?

According to John McCain, “two parent families the traditional family represents.”

A recent Huffington Post article by Edward Stein draws attention to McCain’s cant about wanting to preserve family value–unless, of course, those family values are being instantiated by gay couples fostering or adopting children. Stein highlights McCain’s in-artful refusal to answer straight questions about gay adoption, presumably in an attempt to keep both the religious right and gay Republicans happy.

See for yourself. The video below the fold [no captioning, sorry] shows McCain’s responses to questions posed in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. Continue reading

Women and Botox

Botox has been a hot topic in the news for the last few years as one of a string of new less-invasive cosmetic surgery routines. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, it involves injecting a strain of botulin toxin (hence the name Bo-tox) into facial muscles in order to paralyze them, decreasing the user’s ability to wrinkle their face, but also their ability to make certain expressions, particularly the microgestures essential to meaning.

There is evidence that women are the main targets of the Botox revolution. Part of this may be a systemic preference for younger people. A recent Wallstreet Journal article details the pressure women feel to look physically younger for the advancement of their careers. Continue reading

Imaginary Beauty

Musician, dancer, and British TV personality Alesha Dixon has recently spoken out against the practice of creating unrealistic and homogenized images of women in the media. Alesha experiences these practices personally as someone who frequently appears on magazine covers. Her BBC3 documentary on the subject, Look But Don’t Touch, goes behind the scenes on this issue, following Alesha in her quest to get a magazine to put her on the cover without photoshopping.

[this video contains auditory language and no subtitles, sign interpretation, or other captioning]