How We Become Who We Are: Ashley, Carla, and the Rest of Us

 

Jamie Lindemann Nelson, The Journal of Clinical Ethics 28, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 197-203.

 

Lisa Freitag and Joan Liaschenko’s thoughtful and important article goes directly to the under-examined heart of Ashley’s case, namely to what sustains her in a habitable and intelligible identity. Though quite sympathetic with their conclusion and line of argument, I try to trouble their proceedings a bit, largely by wondering how having a specific such identity, out of several that may be in-principle available, matters to someone with Ashley’s cognitive scope. I do this not simply to be contrary, but because their article also seems to me to raise issues in the ethics of bioethics—in particular, what I call the dilemma of ethical endeavor: How ought one publicly pursue deeply important and complex issues, the very raising of which may offend interlocutors who indeed have grounds for resentment. Making a habit of second guessing oneself may be part of the answer.

 

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