The Quality of Life is Not Strained: Disability, Human Nature, Well-Being, and Relationships

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29 (4):333-366 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between disability and quality of life and some of its implications for bioethics and healthcare. It focuses on the neglected perfectionist approach that ties well-being to the flourishing of human nature, which provides the strongest support for the common view of disability as a harm. After critiquing the traditional Aristotelian version of perfectionism, which excludes the disabled from flourishing by prioritizing rationalistic goods, I defend a new version that prioritizes the social capacities of human nature and the goods of personal relationship. This relationship-centered perfectionism is able to accommodate and explain disabled thriving. I also show how these issues have important implications for specific bioethical debates and clinical practices, using a cluster of issues related to Down syndrome as timely illustrations. My goal is to sketch a perfectionist theory that gives a more plausible account of the relationship between disability and well-being, and that provides better practical guidance in cases involving judgments about the quality of disabled lives.

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Matthew Shea
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Citations of this work

Take Pity: What Disability Rights Can Learn from Religious Charity.Harold Braswell - 2022 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 47 (5):638-652.
Well-Being and Health.Richard Kim & Daniel M. Haybron - 2021 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 46 (6):645-655.
What Do ‘Humans’ Need? Sufficiency and Pluralism.Ben Davies - forthcoming - Ethics, Policy and Environment.

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