Embracing Asymmetry and Humility in the Face of Disability

Hastings Center Report 49 (3):28-29 (2019)
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Abstract

In “The Relational Potential Standard,” in this issue of the Hastings Center Report, Aaron Wightman and colleagues propose “relational potential” as an addition to existing standards that are employed in making difficult decisions regarding life‐sustaining treatment for children with profound cognitive disabilities. They offer compelling explanations for why the expanded standard is important and why an approach grounded in an ethics of care is both necessary and justified. In what follows, I would like to explore asymmetries that emerge from their account: between clinician and parent and between child and parent. “Asymmetry” is a term invoked in the context of disability, often as a marker of something undesirable, abnormal, pathological. Yet asymmetry may also be generative and worthy of attention, and in some cases, something to be embraced. My aim here is to argue that an important dimension of humility in the face of disability lies in recognizing these asymmetrical relationships and responding to them with care.

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