Home Social Don’t forget the value of persons with disabilities during COVID-19 says leading philosopher

Don’t forget the value of persons with disabilities during COVID-19 says leading philosopher

by Kathleen O'Grady

New book challenges misconceptions about the value of life with disability

(New York) — Award-winning feminist philosopher, Dr. Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, and mother of a daughter with significant disabilities is concerned that misconceptions about persons with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities, may fuel discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis — with deadly consequences.

“When it comes time to triage scarce medical care options, such as ventilators and life-saving medicines, will persons with cognitive disabilities be treated as if they have less value?” says Kittay.

“The American President has recently affirmed that no one should be denied medical treatment because of disability — not just a warm sentiment, but something that has been enshrined in law since The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Yet daily we are seeing professional societies and state governments discussing the rationing of health care based implicitly on the perceived value of a person’s life and the lengthy and quality of their lived years,” says Kittay.

Who gets to choose?

“Persons with disabilities are valuable and have full, robust, rich and varied lives.  Their personhood is not somehow diminished,” says Kittay.  “Every moment in their lives is as precious as those of any typical person.

They should not be sacrificed based on misconceptions of disability during COVID-19 should medical scarcity arise,” says Kittay.

In her new book, Learning from My Daughter: The Value and Care of Disabled Minds (Oxford University Press), Kittay offers a powerful challenge to long-held views about the nature of the good life, and through the lens of disability, asks what provides meaning in our lives, what constitutes justice, dignity and personhood.

These concepts need not be distant and idealized; the answers are right before us, in the way humans interact with one another, care for one another and need one another — whether they possess full mental capacities or have cognitive limitations.

We need to revise our concepts of dignity and personhood in light of this important correction, Kittay argues.

Learning from My Daughter was awarded the 2020 PROSE Award for Excellence in Philosophy by the Association of American Publishers.

Kittay, weaving together both her philosophical training and her personal experiences as a disability parent, addresses why cognitive disability can reorient us to what truly matters, and questions the centrality of normalcy as part of a good life.

The book both imparts lessons that advocate on behalf of those with significant disabilities, and constructs a moral theory grounded on our ability to give, receive, and share care and love.

Above all, it aims to adjust social attitudes and misconceptions about life with disability.

Learning from My Daughter

The Value and Care of Disabled Minds

By Eva Feder Kittay
(Oxford University Press)
Hardcover, 304 Pages
ISBN: 9780190844608

For more information and to order: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/learning-from-my-daughter-9780190844608?cc=ca&lang=en&#

About Eva Feder Kittay:

kittay-evaEva Feder Kittay was Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University for over 35 years. She has authored books and edited collections as well as numerous articles in the philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, and disability studies.

Her pioneering work interjecting questions of care and disability (especially cognitive disability) into philosophy and her work in feminist theory have garnered numerous honors and prizes: the 2003 Woman Philosopher of the Year by the Society for Women in Philosophy, the inaugural prize of the Institut de Mensch, Ethik und Wissenschaft, the Lebowitz prize from the American Philosophical Association and Phi Beta Kappa, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Discovery, an NEH Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the parent of a daughter with very significant disabilities.

Photos Courtesy of Eva Feder Kittay

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