Criticizing and reforming segregated facilities for persons with disabilities

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 5 (2-3):157-168 (2008)
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In this paper, we critically appraise institutions for people with disabilities, from residential facilities to outpatient clinics to social organizations. While recognizing that a just and inclusive society would reject virtually all segregated institutional arrangements, we argue that in contemporary American society, some people with disabilities may have needs that at this time can best be met by institutional arrangements. We propose ways of reforming institutions to make them less isolating, coercive, and stigmatizing, and to provide forms of social support the larger society denies many people with disabilities. Although these reforms far fall far short of abolition, they draw heavily on the work of disability scholars and advocates who call for the complete replacement of institutional arrangements with systems of supported living. The consideration of non-ideal-solutions is useful not only in reforming existing institutional arrangements, but in bringing disability scholarship and advocacy to bear on bioethics, which has paid little attention to institutions for people with disabilities. We intend this paper to redress the neglect within mainstream bioethics of the complex ethical problems posed by institutions.



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