The Moral Status of Intellectually Disabled Individuals

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 22 (1):29-42 (1997)
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The moral status accorded to an individual (or class of individuals) helps to account for the weight of the moral obligations considered due to an individual (or class of individuals). Strong arguments can be given to indicate that the moral status accorded, justly or unjustly, to individuals with intellectual disabilities is less than that accorded to those considered intellectually able. This paper suggests that such a view of the moral status of intellectually disabled individuals derives from individualism. Ontological and normative components of individualism are identified. It is shown that individualistic, ontological criteria for personhood compromise the integrity of “dependent” individuals. And it is shown that the normative component of individualism further compromises the integrity of intellectually disabled individuals. An alternative view of the self is outlined in which dependence features centrally. It is tentatively suggested that such a view of the self may prove more congenial to enhancing the moral status of individuals with intellectual disabilities



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Stephen David Edwards
University of Zululand

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