Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics



THE GREAT DEBATES

Synecdoche and Stigma


JAMES LINDEMANN  NELSON  a1
a1 Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, Michigan State University

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In the portion of their reply directed to me, Professor Asch and Dr. Wasserman helpfully develop the synecdoche argument by highlighting its connections to stigma. I understand them to distinguish the situation of a woman making a decision concerning her pregnancy informed by prenatal testing from a woman making a similar decision informed by considerations of, for example, poverty, like so: In testing contexts, it will characteristically be the case that the woman's decision will be distorted by the stigma associated with impairment: She will consider only the fact that, should her pregnancy come to term, the child would be impaired; she will not be able to attend in a satisfactory manner to a fuller range of possible features, both good and bad, that may characterize the child's life and her experience of being the child's parent. The woman considering whether to terminate her pregnancy due to, say, poverty will, in contrast, typically be able to deliberate in ways more responsive to a broader range of relevant matters, as the possible child's poverty will not be the only thing she is in a position to take into account about her or his life and their life together. Further, even where poverty or some other factor influencing decisions about terminating or continuing pregnancy are stigmatizing, they are not as thoroughly stigmatizing as are impairment-related conditions, due to prevalent confusions about the immutability of traits seen as biological rather than social.



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