Pushing Limits

Eugenics and preventing disability – August 29, 2014

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We want to cure cancer, end war, and clean up the environment. But,
what do we lose if we end the disabilities caused by these things?

Our guest is Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, a professor in Women’s,
Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University who works in the field
of Critical Disability Studies.

Let’s end war and, in the process, stop creating veterans with
PTSD and brain injuries. Let’s clean up the environment and end the epidemic
of chemical sensitivity. Let’s cure cancer, heart disease, diabetes and
other diseases so people will not suffer their pain and limitation.

But, wait. Consider that, historically, people with disabilities have
been horribly abused and murdered to meet a eugenics goal of eliminating
disability. When we assume prevention is positive, are we close to
preaching a form of cultural genocide? Will we eliminate the many
future intellectual and cultural contributions by people with various
disabilities if we eliminate their disability? Do people with disabilities contribute something important, something that comes out of their experience of living with disabilities?

Dr. Garland-Thomson navigates the philosophical, cultural and social landscape as Eddie Ytuarte
asks, “Isn’t preventing disabilities a good idea. . . sometimes?”