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Disability

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disabilityThere is a significant controversy over whether one ought to speak of "disability" as a deficit compared to the norm, or whether it is simply a part of the natural diversity among people.  Is disability a biological reality, or is it socially constructed.  Is every biological 'abnormality' a disability, or does a disability necessarily entail some kind of disadvantage in comparison to most other people?  These two different ways of conceptualising disability are known as the medical model and the minority group model (on which disability rights movements are based).  Deciding between these perspectives has important implications for public policy debates, and social and medical approaches to disability. 

Of utmost importance is the debate over the value of the life of a person with a disability.  For a healthy person, a common response to severe disability is "I wouldn't want to live like that."

The perspective of the person with the disability, however, may be quite different, especially if that person's family, friends and environment are supportive and accommodating.  Yet it is often people without a disability who call for euthanasia or assisted suicide for such people, or termination for fetuses who may have a disability.

Therefore many ethical questions confront us in relation to people with disabilities, and those who care for them.  Is a life with disability worth less?  How should we respond to a request for euthanasia from a person with a disability?  Late-term abortion meets with disapproval by the majority of people, except in the case of severe fetal abnormality – why, and is this right?  Should newborns with a disability be killed or allowed to die?  How much healthcare and assistance should we provide to people with a disability?  How do we respond to those whose disability prevents them from communicating or from making their own decisions – for example cognitive and other mental disabilities?