On Disability: Amelioration vs. Acceptance

From my perspective, one of the most salient issues is disability, amelioration vs acceptance. We live in an unprecedented era in which cures, research and the like are allowing persons with previously untreatable conditions to have these conditions fixed. This has a number of ethical indications that relate to the carrying out of several kinds of “Good”.

In the book Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference, Arnett, Bell and Harden Fritz (2009) point out that “every communication ethic carries out or reflects two sorts of related goods” (p> 4). These are substantive hypergoods, or the overarching belief systems, and communicative practices, or the methods used to carry out such goods.

With regards to understanding how people arrive at a given position on disability, it is important first to know what their substantive good is. Some, often those who are born with a condition like blindness or hearing loss, believe fiercely that tampering with this condition should be avoided at all costs. It is as much a part of their cultural makeup as race/ethnicity, location, language, etc. To this end, they will actively resist attempts at medical intervention and do not wish to consider arguments in opposition to their views, no matter how compelling.

On the other hand, there are individuals who think that disability is indicative of some kind of sin or failure. They in many cases believe with religious (either in the literal sense of church/place of worship and God or figuratively as it refers to level of passion) fervor that all such “maladies” should be immediately eradicated. They go as far as pounding blind people in their eyes, yanking individuals out of wheelchairs, and other similar means in order to demonstrate how these goals might be accomplished. They may or may not pursue it from a medical angle, but if they do they devour all of the research done therein and sometimes subject a person (let’s say child of parent) to aggressive surgeries with questionable track records of success.

I know, as one who has seen this played out from both sides. My “good” is that we do live in an era of incredible innovation, but it is also vital to let the individual decide what and how much should be done to change their situation. As one who was born blind, I wouldn’t want this condition altered. I’ve grown up with it, it’s all I know, and to acquire vision would be just as drastic for me as losing it would be for a sighted person. But I also have hearing loss as part of my disorder. I wouldn’t say I’m fanatical about improving my hearing, but I certainly regard the new research coming down the pipe about gene therapy and the restoration of hair cells for example with interest.


On Healing


Author: johnmill79

33, currently residing in Durham, NC. I have a somewhat tedious job, but it's helping me live a bit of the good life until I get things going. Here, I'll blog about things I encounter in my daily life, my continuous search for a career path, entertainment, books I like, etc. Hope you enjoy.

2 thoughts on “On Disability: Amelioration vs. Acceptance”

  1. Great Blog John,

    I grew up in the church, and I can relate to the views regarding illness and the association with sin. I have a family member who had mental illness who was told she was demonically possessed. In another instance she was told she did not have to take the doctors medicine (which caused her to set back into a mental health episode because she stopped taking her medicine). I am still heavily involved in church, but do realize that God creates the ideas that promote healing, even in, medicine.

    I feel that a lot of people act in fear when it comes to medical innovations to improve or cure health. People are afraid of surgery, even those that do not involve cutting, etc. I agree that an individual should have their right to chose without being judged by others.

    As a final thought, I also admire the admission that you would not want to be given the option to see because it would be devastating to change your visual state that you’ve known from birth. My father is blind, but due to diabetes, etc. I think in the beginning he participated in the surgeries to improve or prolong the blinding process. He decided that he no longer wants to undergo surgery. I’m not sure if this is fear (he never discussed how he felt about past surgeries) or if he doesn’t want to be disappointed if the surgeries do not work.


    1. I still go to church occasionally as well. Fortunately, there are more people who hold less extreme views than those who do. But I have been thrown on the floor a couple of times. What they did to your relative is quite sad indeed. I’ve most liked the people who ask what I need praying about instead of jumping to assumptions. It’s just treating a person with respect. Thanks for reading!


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