Contemporary discourse in bioethics and healthcare policy frequently arrives at an impasse caused by disagreement, often unspoken, about what constitutes ‘health’. Different understandings of ‘ill/health’ end up conflating different and sometimes contradictory moral considerations, which marrs political debate and generates insoluble impasses in policy making. As a result, politicians, academics, health practitioners and patients appear to be speaking different languages and entertaining widely diverse expectations.
Can a single definition of ill/health across different fields be arrived at? The strictly legal definition of the right to health is unworkable, as it involves an even more controversial ‘right to happiness’. From a faith perspective, for instance, being healthy does not simply mean the absence of pain. Similarly, mental ill/health in political debates is often addressed as a matter of diversity and equality rather than in terms of disability.
UPDATE: papers from the conference are now published as a special issue of The New Bioethics (Vol. 22, Issue 1, 2016).