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At the 2014 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Executive Officer Sally Hillsman, met with the Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) and suggested that it was time to revise the Code of Ethics. Revisions were last made to the Code 20 years ago, and a great deal of change had taken place. Regulatory and technological advances have had striking impacts on the field. At the time, the Department of Health and Human Services was about to announce changes to The Common Rule, which governs the vast majority of human subjects research efforts.
Persons experiencing addiction may be at very high risk of infectious disease like COVID-19 due to high rates of smoking, recent imprisonment, conditions like HIV/AIDS, and high-risk behaviors (Ezzati et al. 2002; Farhoudian, et al. 2020). During the COVID-19 pandemic, most courts have shuttered, and treatment center admissions have halted, yet the opioid crisis rages on. Addiction intersects with material hardship, trauma, broken institutions, and human frailty in a multidimensional web of disadvantage (Desmond and Western 2018)—a process illustrated by COVID-19.
The unequal impacts of COVID-19 demonstrate an urgent need for sociological interrogations of disability as a social category and axis of inequality commensurate with race, class, and gender and intersecting with them. While disability can be a marker of health status, it is also a unique social category with particular politics structuring disabled people’s lives and reflecting interlocking systems of oppression. We provide examples of how the pandemic reveals disability is a societally mediated category of existence that is (de)valued in particular ways.