9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS01 Sociology and Disability

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Categorising and Imagining Disability Building II, C3.01

The Uses and Misuses of Disability Diagnostics

In this presentation I will discuss the expediency and justifiability of categorizing human difference through psycho-medical diagnostics. Recognition and respect of individuality has traditionally been the basis of diagnostics. It has been assumed that meeting people's various needs requires proper knowledge about their characteristics, which medicine and psychology purportedly provide. However, numerous sociological analyses have pointed that categorizing human beings and their characteristics on the basis of diagnostics includes the danger of labeling and stigma. This is especially the case with neuropsychiatric diagnoses such as ADHD and Asperger's that have no verifiable organic cause. Rather, these diagnoses are ultimately based on observations about certain people's problematic characteristics and behavior. This inevitably raises several ontological and political issues. For example, what is the truth value of ADHD and other diagnoses of so-called behavioral disorders' In other words, is ADHD in any way a real entity, and if so, in what way? Assuming that ADHD is a meaningful diagnosis, does it have implications regarding one's accountability and moral responsibility? I will argue that simplistic accounts that overemphasize either the physical or social dimension of human difference can be both inaccurate and potentially harmful. Similar sensitivity to the relational nature of human existence should be bore in mind when evaluating the significance of neuropsychiatric diagnoses for one's responsibility and accountability.