Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 3

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here and the second here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 3

Highlights: the consequences of the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy for doing ethics in Europe, embarrassing statistical analysis of money saved from selective abortion, directed and coercive nature of prenatal genetic testing, strength of ideas of reproductive freedom and autonomy, critical assessment of Finns on “useless” philosophy, secret recipe for arousing passion in Finns.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the second part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 2

Highlights: Lack of knowledge by sterilization victims about what was happening, total number of Finnish sterilization victims in, illusion of voluntary sterilization, logical flaw of “playing the Nazi card”, strategy for effective discussion in the face of embarrassment, and prevention of disability vs. providing autonomous choice.

A transcript follows the cut. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics & Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 1

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the presentation by Simo Vehmas.  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 1

Highlights: Origins of eugenic ideas in Finland; use of eugenic practices to reinforce various social power structures; ineffectiveness of marriage regulations lead to sterilization practices; intersection of eugenics, morality and criminality.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Texas Turkeys in Iowa

About a month ago Spirit of the Time posted a piece on Whatsorts by Cindy de Bruijn called ‘Does Alberta’s “Minimum Wage Exemption” violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?’ Now an incredible news story from Iowa provides a chilling example of just how far wrong such an exemption can go. It starts with 21 Texas men who were described as mentally disabled and  receiving SSI (US Supplemental Security Income that the government describes as”designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income”) income from the government.

Continue reading

Medical “Ethics”?

I have to share the following true story.

Not too long ago, I attended a talk on medical ethics. The speaker was presenting a number of test cases for discussion. One of the test cases imagined a 32-year-old woman who had an accident that left her with quadriplegia and requiring ventilator assistance. 10 weeks after her injury, she asks her doctor to disconnect the ventilator. The speaker argued that the doctor should respect the patient’s right to self-determination and disconnect the ventilator. There was no subtlety expressed by the speaker about whether 10 weeks was long enough for the person to know what her life could be like after disability. There was no awareness expressed about objections to these sorts of right-to-die cases that have been expressed in the disability literature. There seemed to be no awareness about worries that have been discussed in medical ethics since at least the 1980’s that people who become dependent after such accidents may express a wish to die as a response to concerns about being a “burden,” and to the larger society’s implications that it wishes to be “rid” of such “burdens.” In other words, whose desires are people in such situations who say they wish to die really carrying out: their own “autonomous” desires, or the larger society’s desires to be “rid” of them? Such questions should give us pause as to whether people in such circumstances are really making autonomous decisions and engaging in self-determination when they ask people to help them die.

In a discussion afterword that was somewhat critical of the speaker’s position, Continue reading

CFP, Brain Matters: New Directions in Neuroethics

When: September 24 – 26, 2009
Where: Lord Nelson Hotel, Halifax ♦ Nova Scotia ♦ Canada
Abstract Deadline: March 1, 2009

See the full call for papers here; summary of plenary speakers and topics beneath the fold. Note the following:

“Trainee Award Abstract Competition – Up to 15 monetary awards will be given to trainees whose abstracts for an Oral Presentation or Poster Presentation have been accepted by the Abstracts Committee. Awards will be made on the basis of merit.”

Go trainees! Continue reading

Living with Trisomy 13, Part 2: The Monitor

[This is the fourth post in a series highlighting a public dialogue held at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. It is also the second part of a description of events given by Sam Sansalone. The first part can be found here. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. This series will bring forward the videos made of this event twice a week, roughly every Wednesday and Saturday. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here; we’ll string together all posts in this series when we have most / all of them up.]

In this video (followed by a transcript) Sam Sansalone continues to describe his experiences trying to keep his daughter, Katya, alive. This part of the story is focused around a monitor necessary to keep Katya alive. The hospital staff clearly recognize that this piece of equipment is needed but seem somewhat reluctant to allow Katya to use the monitor, possibly even arranging a situation where a less medically savvy couple than Sam and his wife would choose to give up the monitor without realizing the consequences (ie. their child quietly choking to death while they slept). Fortunately, the missing monitor is caught and Katya is able to continue living.

As far as we know Katya is the oldest surviving child in Canada to have received a Trisomy 13 diagnosis and Sam closes by sharing his thoughts about why this may be the case.

Watch the video and answer the accompanying poll: Continue reading

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

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

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

Talking about cognitive disability and moral philosophy

As readers of this blog will know, in September there was a relatively large, special topic conference called “Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy”, organized by Eva Kittay and Licia Carlson (and I think Sophia Wong), held in New York City.  In some recent comments here, Shelley Tremain has said the following about the roster of speakers for this conference, particularly the inclusion of Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan:

I would like to know when disability theorists, activists, and our allies came to regard it as beneficial, indeed, laudable, to have Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan speak about disabled people, especially cognitively disabled people. … Giving this kind of attention to nondisabled white, male bioethicists whose awful, dominant views about disabled people are in the public domain (and quite familiar to many of us) serves to further marginalize the work of authors in Disability Studies who are attempting to unravel the misunderstandings and prejudices the views of the former entail for concrete human beings; it marginalizes disabled theorists; it marginalizes feminist disability theorists.

Continue reading

Call for Contributions: Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

NOTE FROM ST: Readers of the blog may notice that I have posted this cfp to the blog several times.  Please excuse the repetition, but I am keen to get many submissions for the issue which should be pathbreaking.

 

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF

 

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST

APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010        

 

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

 

Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain

 

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression. 

 

While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics.  This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make.

 

The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): 

Continue reading

Conference announcement: PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY INTO PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, AND MOTHERING

May 14-16, 2009
At the University of Oregon

This one-time conference will take place in the Spring of 2009. The conference will be primarily philosophical in focus, but interdisciplinary scholarship from fields outside of philosophy is also invited including, but not limited to, sociology, psychology, womenʼs and gender studies, and health care related fields.

Keynote speakers

Lisa Guenther, Vanderbilt University

Eva Kittay, SUNY at Stony Brook

Invited speaker

Andrea O’Reilly, the Association for Research on Mothering, York University

Call for Papers

Submit abstracts for papers or panels of approximately 750 words

Due January 31, 2009, at 5:00 p.m.

E-mail submissions or questions to PCM_Conference@yahoo.com  

Include a cover sheet with name, institution, department, and contact information. Document should be submitted in MS Word (.doc file). For further details and registration information, please link to www.uoregon.edu/~uophil/events.html  

 

Hosted by the University of Oregon and the Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering Research Group. Sponsorship provided by the University of Oregon Graduate School, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, the Oregon Humanities Center, University of Oregon Department of Philosophy, and the Graduate Student Philosophy Club. 

 

Three Events in Edmonton on Disability and Eugenics

This week in Edmonton The What Sorts Network is holding three public events around the themes of disability and eugenics that follow up two earlier conferences / workshops (Eugenics and Sterilization in Alberta: 35 Years Later in April 2007, and Understanding Human Variation in September 2007). All events are free, and everyone is welcome.

PUBLIC DIALOGUE, Thursday, 23rd October, 7-9pm: The Pursuit of Modern Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life

PUBLIC WORKSHOP, Friday, 24th October 8.30am – 4.00pm: Families and Memory

PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM, Saturday, 25th October 1.30 – 4.30pm: Philosophy, Eugenics, and Disability in Alberta and Places North

Continue reading

CFP: Special issue on Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF 

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010         

 

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

 

Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain

 

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression.  While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics. 

 

This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make.  The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): Continue reading

Posts on Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy

If anyone has any reactions to talks they’ve heard at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC sponsored by SUNY Stony Brook and run by Eva Kittay and Licia Carlson that has just finished, please post away, either as a comment here (anyone) or in your own post (if you’re a What Sorts blogger). Kristina’s link to her Autism Vox post on Ian Hacking’s talk is a start.

Podcast about the ‘trials’ of courtroom interpreters

How should the courtroom interpreter interpret their own role in the courtroom? And what discrepencies exist in understandings of this role, between defence and prosecution lawyers, judges, defendants, and the interpreters themselves?

This comprehensive and interesting Australian Radio National podcast may interest readers of the ‘what sorts’ blog, especially with respect to the interests of access to justice and the ability to be fully linguistically present at one’s own trial. Continue reading

Call for Contributions: Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF

 

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST

APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010

 

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

 

Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain

 

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression.  While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics. 

 

This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make. The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): Continue reading

CFP: Feminist Disability Studies in/and Feminist Bioethics

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST

APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

Guest Editor, Shelley Tremain

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies. A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression. While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central. Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics. Continue reading

Eugenics 2008? The deportation of Lucy Chapman

Anyone who reads the news has heard stories about killers, rapists, and suspected terrorists that have fought deportation from Canada and in many cases won or at least delayed being deported. So, who are the really BAD people that we need to keep out of this great country for fear that they will destroy the nation. Apparently 7-year-old Lucy Chapman is one of them. Continue reading