Editor’s Column – March 2006

As we go to press with this issue, the big news is that Peter Singer is coming to town. Who […]

As we go to press with this issue, the big news is that Peter Singer is coming to town. Who is he? Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton who promotes a utilitarian philosophy. According to Wikipedia, utilitarianism (from the Latin meaning useful) is “a theory of ethics that prescribes the quantitative maximization of good consequences for a population. The good to be maximized is usually happiness, pleasure, or preference satisfaction.” Singer takes the ideology to an extreme. He is regarded as the father of the animal rights movement, and has said that a person in a vegetative state might be a better candidate for medical research than a chimpanzee.

Peter Singer‘s philosophy is not compatible with disability rights and the independent living movement. He has expressed some very radical views on the “quality of life” of people with disabilities and the ability of someone with a disability to contribute to the better good or happiness of all of society. According to Singer, if a soon-to-be-parent knows that their unborn child could have cognitive or physical limitations, the pregnancy should be terminated. Singer once wrote that parents should have the right to terminate the life of a “severely disabled” infant for approximately 28 days after birth. More recently he has decided that 28 days is too arbitrary and parents should try to make a decision as soon as possible on whether to let their child survive or be terminated. (He uses the word terminated, not killed) It’s important to stop this kind of philosophy; not by ignoring it and not by trying to debate the philosophy with Singer but by quiet protest and being visible.

Singer will give two lectures in Minnesota this month. Hope to see you there, demonstrating by our lives that we are maximizing good.

• Annual Business Ethics Lecture, “Ethics and Globalization,” Minnesota State University, Centennial Student Union Ballroom, Mankato, MN, March 22nd at 7 pm.

• Lecture, “Ethics and Animals,” University of Minnesota, Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 4th St. S, Minneapolis, MN, March 23rd at 7 pm.

After reading the Peter Singer Protest Alert you really must read the article, Intellectual Disability. Arc Minnesota lays out a very informative piece about the definitions, the effects, the demographics and the successes of people with intellectual disabilities.

We have two very good articles about Multiple Sclerosis and its effects. Angela Hume writes about Shannon Hoelzel’s personal views of MS. The Minnesota Chapter of the National MS Society contributed, What is MS? Many thanks to the staff at the MS society for their good work and also to Angela and Shannon for the personal story.

This month Chuck Campbell brings us some startling information about the numbers of homeless with mental health issues. Chuck explains how the state of Minnesota has proposed initiatives to decrease homelessness at the same time that the federal government is decreasing funding. Any new spending by the state might be largely offset by the decrease in federal funding.

Danielle Engle put together an informative article on the coming legislative session and our responsibility to the political process. Danielle brings to her discussion the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, two political philosophers from the 17th and 18th centuries, who wrote about the “social contract” and individual responsibilities in democracy. Thanks, Danielle, for your research and the educational article.

Clarence Schadegg wrote a commentary on the class action lawsuit that the National Federation for the Blind has brought against the Target Corporation. It seems that as much as Target talks about being inclusive and diversity-focused they do not see the need to have their Web site accessible to people with visual impairment or blindness. Clarence explains the problems that screen readers have with the Target Web site and the difficulties he has experienced on the site. Great job Clarence; thank you!

 

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