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Disability matters in medical law
  1. Kate Diesfeld
  1. Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand


    The British Parliament stated that health services would be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the act). However, when people with disabilities are at their most vulnerable, for example when in hospital or subject to medical procedures, the antidiscrimination law fails them. A review of cases indicates that when people with disabilities are subject to medical treatment, the legislative protections are allowed to vanish. Instead, medical decisions are justified on obscure notions such as “best interests”, often with irreversible or even terminal results. This article examines the relevant provisions and limitations of the act, the features of notable non-treatment decisions, and the act's potential to guide future decision making. It argues that antidiscrimination legislation should be assertively applied to protect vulnerable people.

    • Disability
    • learning disability
    • persistent vegetative state
    • discrimination
    • human rights

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    • Kate Diesfeld, BA, Juris Doctorate, is Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director, National Centre for Health and Social Ethics, Faculty of Health Studies, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

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