Law Professor Authors New Book on Bioethics and Disability Rights
Albany Law School Professor Alicia Ouellette’s latest book, Bioethics and Disability: Toward a
Disability-Conscious Bioethics, takes on the tension between disability
rights scholars and bioethicists. According to some disability rights
activists, bioethicists focus too broadly on the concept of patient rights at
the expense of the practical challenges facing individuals with disabilities.
“The book explores why this tension exists, and it takes
seriously the charge that medicine in general, and bioethics in particular, would
better serve people of all abilities if it were more mindful of disability
issues,” explained Professor Ouellette, who is also a professor of bioethics at
the Union Graduate College/Mt. Sinai School of Medicine Program in Bioethics.
For example, Professor Ouellette continued, “A man who was
rendered a ventilator-dependant quadriplegic via a motorcycle accident became
despondent after being isolated for months in nursing homes and a hospital ICU.
He petitioned a court for – and won – the right to turn off his ventilator.
While bioethicists argued that the choice to end his life was his alone,
disability experts intervened and found a way for him to live and work at home,
which improved his life and ultimately contributed to his decision not to turn
off the ventilator.”
“Working together, bioethicists, disability rights
advocates, doctors and nurses can learn to look past disability to see the
bigger picture, thereby developing appropriate, comprehensive treatments that
ensure positive quality of life for everyone,” concluded Professor Ouellette.
A leading scholar in the field of bioethics, Professor
Ouellette is co-editing the forthcoming Cambridge
Dictionary of Bioethics and recently contributed the article “Growth
Attenuation, Parental Choice, and the Rights of Disabled Children: Lessons from
the Ashley X Case” to the Houston Journal
of Health Law. She has been published widely throughout her career in
academic journals such as the American
Journal of Law and Medicine, the Hastings
Center Report, the American Journal
of Bioethics, the Indiana Law Journal
and Oregon Law Review.