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Impact on the World Stage

Dean in Geneva

Last fall, a global group of experts and scholars convened at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, to tackle some of humanity’s most difficult questions. Among them: President and Dean Alicia Ouellette ’94.

Sixteen panelists, invited by the special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, delved into issues of bioethics and disability over the course of two 16-hour days at the Office of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights at the Palais Wilson.

“Bioethics frames discourse and policy around medical technology and clinical decision making—especially regarding difficult issues like physician aid in dying, genetic selection of embryos, ending treatment for terminally ill infants, and body modification involving children with disabilities,” said Dean Ouellette, author of the book BIOETHICS AND DISABILITY: TOWARD A DISABILITY CON- SCIOUS BIOETHICS. “Yet bioethics often doesn’t conside the disability perspective. Why do disability rights experts and bioethicists look at the same questions so differently?”

The group was brought together to inform a newly released report on how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) should be applied in the medical arena. Since its adoption by the U.N. in 2006, the CRPD has been ratified by 168 countries and the European Union and has caused a sea change in how people with disabilities are perceived and treated.

“The report could be very impactful—it could shape international law and customs,” the dean said. “This process has been used to develop others reports that have been adopted, and every country that ratifies a convention is then bound to follow that law.”

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