Reconsidering Intellectual Disability: L'Arche, Medical Ethics, and Christian Friendship

By Betcher, Jeffrey G. | Ethics & Medicine, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Reconsidering Intellectual Disability: L'Arche, Medical Ethics, and Christian Friendship


Betcher, Jeffrey G., Ethics & Medicine


Reconsidering Intellectual Disability: L'Arche, Medical Ethics, and Christian Friendship Jason Reimer Greig. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2015. ISBN 978- 1 6261 62433. 304 PAGES, PAPER, $32.95.

Ashley X is a young girl with profound intellectual and physical impairments whose parents chose a treatment course that would prematurely stop her physical growth in order to keep her forever small. She is highly dependent on her parents for all of her personal care and they had reached the limit where they could provide this care to keep her at home. The treatment, which has since become known as the Ashley Treatment, involves attenuation therapy to restrict physical growth as well as surgical removal of breast buds and uterus. This has given rise to questions of human flourishing and what is a fully human life. It also raises the issue of the role of the moral community versus that of individual self-determination. These are the issues at the heart of Jason Greig's discussion of the bioethics of profound intellectual disability, in which he explores friendship and the church as they relate to these individuals.

Greig considers intellectual disability from three perspectives: the medical model, the social model of disability, and that of friendship. The medical model is one that has arisen from the post-Enlightenment "Baconian Project" in which the body is considered an instrument for manipulation. According to this view, there is a separation of the body from the soul, leading to the premise that disability is a deviation from normal that needs to be corrected. It fails to recognize, however, that we are embodied and this embodiment is fundamental to our identity as human persons. …

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