Special Issue on Vulnerability of IJFAB

Nov 19, 2010 Jun 03, 2011

IJFAB Volume 5.2 2012 Special Issue on Vulnerability

Guest editors Wendy Rogers, Catriona Mackenzie and Susan Dodds

Vulnerability is a key issue in bioethics. It is widely recognised that we owe special moral obligations to persons and/or groups identified as vulnerable, yet the nature of vulnerability and the duties that are owed to the vulnerable are not well understood in the bioethics literature. The premise of this special issue is that vulnerability is not just a characteristic of some persons or groups; rather, it is a pervasive and characteristic feature of human life, a condition of our embodied, social, and affective natures. Nevertheless, the impact of vulnerability varies according to social, political or environmental conditions, access to resources, and emotional, physical or intellectual robustness. Developing a robust theory of vulnerability will make a major contribution to scholarship in the field. There have been criticisms of the ways in which vulnerability is used in the bioethics literature (eg Hurst 2008, Macklin 2003) where at times it seems to be a catch-all for labeling diverse groups and individuals. The labeling approach risks paternalism and stereotyping, however as yet there are few contributions that offer alternative ways of understanding vulnerability (for an exception see Luna 2009). There is therefore scope for detailed explorations from feminist perspectives as to how a theory of vulnerability would intersect with concepts such as relational autonomy, embodiment, care ethics or theories of justice, and how these intersections would play out in relation to issues subject to scrutiny by feminist bioethics. The aim of this special issue is to collect a group of papers that contributes to the development of a theory of vulnerability and its application to issues in bioethics, drawing upon feminist perspectives.
Potential topics for this volume include:
• The relationship between vulnerability and autonomy; and whether and how relational accounts of autonomy can inform the development of a theory of vulnerability.
• The relationship between vulnerability and principles such as respect for dignity, beneficence and justice.
• The normative force of vulnerability in relation to research ethics: how should vulnerability be assessed in relation to research, and what duties are owed, and by whom, to the vulnerable?
• Analyses of how notions of vulnerability have been used to identify particular groups (women, pregnant women, fetuses) and exploration of the effects of such identification in terms of protection, stereotyping or paternalism
• Investigation into the normative force of the concept of vulnerability and the potential contribution to bioethics scholarship of making vulnerability an explicit central concern for bioethics.
• Investigation of the vulnerabilities involved in relationships of care, such as that between carer and the cared-for (for example children, frail elderly, people living with disabilities).
• Analysis of the ways in which policies and practices can exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, or conversely, protect against vulnerabilities in various ways.
Deadline for Submission: May 31, 2011
Please contact Wendy Rogers if you wish to discuss your paper prior to submission

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