Bioethics, Adaptive Preferences, and Judging the Quality of a Life with Disability

Social Theory and Practice 47 (1):199-220 (2021)
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Both mainstream and disability bioethics sometimes contend that the self-assessment of disabled people about their own well-being is distorted by adaptive preferences that are only held because other, better options are unavailable. I will argue that both of the most common ways of understanding adaptive preferences—the autonomy-based account and the well-being account—would reject blanket claims that disabled people’s QOL self-assessment has been distorted, whether those claims come from mainstream bioethicists or from disability bioethicists. However, rejecting these generalizations for a more nuanced view still has dramatic implications for the status quo in both health policy and clinical ethics.



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Joseph A. Stramondo
San Diego State University

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