PSYC 3850 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Intellectual Disability, Terri Schiavo Case, Genetic Testing

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Chapter 13
Attitudes toward and treatment of people with ID has always reflected philosophies of human existence and human worth.
Source of ethics: rules that guide or govern conduct and define what’s good or bad
Historically, ill treatments of people with ID were accepted as best for society’s interest.
In today’s society, much has been condemned as barbaric and unethical, but much hypocrisy remains.
Each of us operates on the basis of some set of guiding principles that are the basis for a code of ethics governing our behavior.
Two philosophic positions frame our discussion:
1. Utilitarianism- based on the premise that any action is “right” if it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
An individual only has those rights granted by the larger society
Strictly following this view leads to a tendency for the group with the greatest power to continue in power and often to
expand that power by limiting the rights of those with less power
2. Deontology suggests that some acts may be wrong and others right independent of their consequences
Strictly following this view leads to the rights of some being maintained while the rights of others being diminished
Both views represent polarized viewpoints of the rights and worth of individuals
Euthanasia
Defined in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as: the act of practice of killing or permitting the death of hopeless or
injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy
Case of euthanasia was brought into public eye in 1975 when a woman in new Jersey by the name of Karen Ann
Quinlan was admitted into a hospital on April 1975 and for one year remained alive simply because she was on a
respirator and tube feeding (an artificial support system).
By March 1976, parents wanted Karen off support system, and medical personnel refused to do so.
Courts sided with the parents. Karen was taken off support system and survived in a comatose state.
Karen finally died in June 1985.
Terri Schiavo In 1990, oxygen flow to brain was temporarily stopped which caused severe brain damage. Terri was
only alive through a feeding tube. Her husband asked that the support system be stopped, but Terri’s parents pushed that
she remains connected to the feeding tube. Under court order, tube was removed April 2005 and Terri died within a few
days
Point of view all lives are equal under the law written by executive director of the ARC Steven Eidleman who purports that
people with disabilities should be treated with equality, as there are million so disabled people with varying qualities of lives. He adds that
using the term “vegetables” must stop.
Withholding treatment
Most specifically used as a form of euthanasia on newborns with ID. Parents may request withholding of routine surgical or
medical treatment needed for the infant to survive
This used to be unaccepted in the past
30 years ago, Robertson characterized it as a common practice for parents to ask for withholding of treatment and for physicians
to accept it when dealing with infants with birth defects
Duff and Campbell conducted a study in 1973 that investigated 299 consecutive deaths that were recorded in a special-care
nursery. 43 of them involved withholding treatment. This represents 14% of the sample.
Topic remains controversial
Competing equities
Plays significant role in societal dilemmas
As rights of some individuals are emphasized, others’ rights are diminished
Utilitarian view would argue that medical equipment and attention should not be expended on terminally ill individuals on life
support, but should go to the greater good of society.
Deontological view would argue that an infant with an ID deserves treatment and medical support because of the infant’s right to
life. Competing equities are evidence as one considers the potential conflict between the right of the infant and the right of the
parent.
Ethical issues are not limited to a given age group but some patterns relate to different stages of the life cycle
Ethical issues throughout the life cycle
1. Prenatal period
Concept of preventing or eliminating ID has been considered by society, but the actual means to achieve this goal (withholding
treatment, genetic screening) have been more controversial
Genetic screening and counseling
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Document Summary

Attitudes toward and treatment of people with id has always reflected philosophies of human existence and human worth. Source of ethics: rules that guide or govern conduct and define what"s good or bad. Historically, ill treatments of people with id were accepted as best for society"s interest. In today"s society, much has been condemned as barbaric and unethical, but much hypocrisy remains. Each of us operates on the basis of some set of guiding principles that are the basis for a code of ethics governing our behavior. Two philosophic positions frame our discussion: utilitarianism- based on the premise that any action is right if it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. An individual only has those rights granted by the larger society. Strictly following this view leads to the rights of some being maintained while the rights of others being diminished. Both views represent polarized viewpoints of the rights and worth of individuals.

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