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The symposium in this issue, on equality and disability, helps to clarify some areas of continuing disagreement in disability studies, but also uncovers substantial consensus. All of the contributors appear to endorse John Harris's statement that “No disability, however slight, nor however severe, implies lesser moral, political or ethical status, worth, or value”.1 It seems safe to assume, moreover, that few if any readers of the Journal of Medical Ethics are likely to disagree with this, or indeed to challenge Kate Diesfeld's initial assumption that “Generally speaking, it is both immoral and unlawful to discriminate between people on the ground of disability”.2
Some, of course, might challenge Diesfeld's choice of the word “between” rather than “against”. What is generally agreed to be both immoral and unlawful is discrimination in the modern sense of treating people unjustly on the basis of distinctions that are not morally relevant to the matter in hand. It is neither immoral nor illegal, for example, for a transport employee to discriminate between members of the travelling public in order to offer some but not others the use of a wheelchair or a wheelchair ramp. Nor is it immoral or illegal for society to discriminate between its members through legislation which offers, to some but not others, special forms of aid or protection, based on the recognition of their respective disabilities.
Legislation designed to protect people …
Kenneth M Boyd is Deputy Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics.