Human Exceptionalism

Americans with Disabilities Act: Missing the Elephant in the Living Room

The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed an expansion of the ADA’s protection against workplace discrimination. From the story:

In deciding whether a person is disabled, the bill says, courts should generally not consider the effects of “mitigating measures” like prescription drugs, hearing aids and artificial limbs. Moreover, it adds, “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”

The chief sponsor of the bill, the House Democratic leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said the situation was now bizarre. “An individual may be considered too disabled by an employer to get a job, but not disabled enough by the courts to be protected by the A.D.A. from discrimination,” Mr. Hoyer said.

Yes, that is an irony. But this one is even more acute. Because the ADA does not explicitly outlaw medical discrimination based on disability, we will see continued encroachment on the Hippocratic ethic of providing optimal care based on the individual’s needs.

Thus, the bill passed, the woman in Oregon denied chemotherapy by Medicaid but offered assisted suicide might be able to sue for employment discrimination–say if she were denied a job–but not for refusal to pay for life-extending treatment.

Of course, I am not saying don’t do the one. But please people, get to work on the other!