Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 339–355 | Cite as

The Case for Conserving Disability

  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
Original Research


It is commonly believed that disability disqualifies people from full participation in or recognition by society. This view is rooted in eugenic logic, which tells us that our world would be a better place if disability could be eliminated. In opposition to this position, I argue that that disability is inherent in the human condition and consider the bioethical question of why we might want to conserve rather than eliminate disability from our shared world. To do so, I draw together an eclectic, rather than systematic, configuration of counter-eugenic arguments for conserving disability. The idea of preserving intact, keeping alive, and even encouraging to flourish denoted by conserve suggests that disabilities would be better understood as benefits rather than deficits. I present, then, a reading of disability as a potentially generative resource rather than unequivocally restrictive liability. In other words, what I consider here is the cultural and material contributions disability offers to the world.


Queer health Disability Bioethics Community 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Women’s StudiesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.AY 2011-2012 Contact, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study FellowCambridgeUSA

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