Can there be a Disability Studies Theory of "End-of-Life Autonomy?"

Harold Braswell



ADA, autonomy, bioethics, end-of-life, euthanasia, terminal illness


In this article, I examine the possibility of a disability studies theory of "end-of-life autonomy." I define "end-of-life autonomy" as an individual's legally protected and medically enacted decision to die in response to a serious incurable medical condition. Disability studies scholars criticize such autonomy when it is exercised by persons with disabilities, but are divided on its application to the terminally ill. But the problem with end-of-life autonomy is not determining the correct population to which it applies; it is the ableism underlying the concept of "autonomy" itself. I redefine "autonomy" as a relational process of self-development that is oriented toward a greater recognition of dependence. This rethinking can make the ADA more responsive to terminally ill individuals, and helps lay the foundation for a disability studies theory of end-of-life autonomy.


ADA; autonomy; bioethics; end-of-life; euthanasia; terminal illness

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Copyright (c) 2011 Harold Braswell

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