On January 4, Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl gave a presentation at the Society for Christian Ethics annual meeting in Louisville, KY titled “The Prophetic Challenge of Disability Art.”
For persons with chronic illness and disability, medical images can come to represent their stigmatized “otherness.” A growing group of artists, however, are transforming their medical images into works of visual art, which better represent their lived experience and challenge viewers to see the disability and illness differently. Dr. Stahl showed how disability art encourages a new ethic of communion in which embodied vulnerabilities are shared, celebrated, and reoriented toward the ground of being.
Learn more about Dr. Stahl’s work with medical images and visual art.
Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl gave three presentations this month at local and national events.
Dr. Stahl was invited to give a talk at Georgetown University on November 9 as part of their conference on “Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Theological and Ethical Responses.” In her talk, “Understanding the Voices of Disability Advocates in Physician-Assisted Suicide Debates,” she discussed the disability rights perspective on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and how it relates to Christian ethics. The presentation argued for the importance of faithfully attending to concerns regarding PAS raised by disability advocates, and considered the ways that the Church has historically failed to offer full honor and respect to the lives of people with disabilities. By attentively listening to disability groups who oppose PAS, Christians may come to realize that they too participate in unjust structures and systems that threaten the lives and dignity of disability advocates.
On November 14, Dr. Stahl was the keynote speaker at the annual Ernest F. Krug III Symposium on Biomedical Ethics, presented by Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. Her talk was titled “The Disability Rights Critique of Physician Aid in Dying Legislation.” Dr Stahl spoke to an audience of medical students and faculty about the disability rights perspective on physician aid in dying, and how it differs from the debates happening in mainstream bioethics. Over the past three decades, disability rights advocates have provided clear and consistent opposition to the legalization of physician aid in dying (PAD), which many believe threatens the lives and well-being of persons with disabilities. The presentation reviewed the common objections to PAD from disability advocates and considered what such objections reveal about the systemic failings of our current health care system.
At the American Academy of Religion Annual Meetings in Denver, CO, Dr. Stahl joined a panel of speakers discussing religious responses to the opioid epidemic. She discussed the ethical tensions that physicians experience when managing the opioid crisis, including whether and how to trust patients who request opioids, the validity of opioid contracts and drug screens, as well as the current legislative restricts on opioid prescribing.
Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl and co-author John F. Kilner (Trinity International University) have an article in a special bioethics themed issue of the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability, volume 6. Their article, “The Image of God, Bioethics, and Persons with Profound Intellectual Disabilities,” is available as a free download on the journal’s website.
Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl recently attended the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Azusa, California, held June 5-8. Dr. Stahl presented at two workshops. In “Recovering Christian Charity,” she presented on the history of disability charity in American culture to understand why many disability advocates reject charity. The workshop offered possibilities for recovering the traditional understanding of charity within the church and challenged Christians to understand charity in ways that do not demean or dehumanize persons with disabilities.
In the second workshop, “Reflections on Embodiment and Disability Advocacy,” Dr. Stahl joined a group of panelists offering personal reflections on how their understandings of and relationship to their own bodies impact how they carry out their scholarship and advocacy work in disability. The workshop aimed to encourage disability advocates to pay attention to their own embodiment and experience, to think about how that connects to the work they do, and how to use one’s own experiences to make their work deeper and more helpful.
Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl is currently the Vice President of the North American Paul Tillich Society and the Co-Chair of the Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion and Culture Group at the American Academy of Religion. In November Dr. Stahl attended meetings held by the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS) and the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Stahl gave a paper for NAPTS titled “Tillich and the future of interdisciplinary ethics,” discussing the difficulties in doing Christian ethics in non-religious fields, such as medicine, business, and law. Dr. Stahl discussed both why ethics is becoming an interdisciplinary field in the academy and why it is difficult for Christian ethicists to engage in interdisciplinary work. Dr. Stahl proposed Tillich’s method of correlation can help Christian ethicists be true to their Christian message while adapting it to the current situation and culture in which they live.
Dr. Stahl also gave a paper at the American Academy of Religion in a joint session between the Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Group and the Religion and Disability Studies Group titled “Does Transhumanist eschatology eradicate disability?” Dr. Stahl contended there is a tension at the heart of the transhumanist agenda and disability theology: transhumanists aim to enhance “normal” human traits through novel biotechnologies, whereas disability theologians desire a world wherein disability is accepted rather than eradicated. However, because both disability theologians and transhumanists believe bodily variation or modification cannot sever our connection to God, there is room to creatively imagine ways to modify the body that might be beneficial to persons with disabilities. Dr. Stahl argued “radical prosthetics” might be a point of convergence between the two camps and a way to creatively and jointly signal the kingdom of God through human creations.