Stem Cells Across The Curriculum

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Disability, Adaptation, & Enhancement Resources

This collection of video and text resources reviews the field of disability, enhancement, and the conflicts between the social and biomedical approaches to public health otherwise known as the cure v. care debate. Some of the resources take this a step further and investigate the notion of enhancement. The ESPN video highlights the desire and need to regenerate tissues for sports stars and what this might mean for the future of athletics. The Kotaku blog entry by Wordsworth shares a number of resources including public opinion polls and video games that provoke conversations regarding equity and enhancement.  Similarly, the documentary film  Fixed  spans a wide range of opinions regarding public investment in emerging and adaptive technologies including those of bioethicists, ability scholars, philosophers, scientists, and transhumanists. The trailer prompts viewers to consider more deeply their understanding of ability and the trade offs involved in growing the field of cellular and mechanical enhancements at a time when social services are being minimized. The textbook chapter by Garland and Stull also highlights this trade off in shaping public health policy. The documentary film Terra Incognita details the lives of two young women who live with accident-related disabilities, two graduate students, and a stem cell researcher who is also the father of one of the young women.  Their divergent views on the value of stem cell research exemplify the debates in society and are further expanded to include the views of leading bioethicist Laurie Zoloth and members of the clergy.  The last documentary Restoration is a short film created by Eugene Lang College alumna Elle Brosh, which crafts a narrative using a metaphor of Bottle Beach to compel viewers to question the impact of normative definitions of ability and health on society.  The essays, timeline and documentary film by student Letendre, remind visitors that the American Disabilities Act was not made into law until 1990, and that language, practice, and policy regarding those living with disability can be discriminatory.  A short video on the Disability Justice page highlights the criminal acts performed on those living with disabilities in the name of biomedicine (Olmstead). The Linton essay reviews how the use and power of language can both discriminate and empower those living with disabilities. The Lancet essay reminds us of the original definition of health: human adaptation to one’s environment. Biopolitical Times Blog post by poet and writer George Estreich brings into full view the dangers of presenting simple arguments for the advance of CRISPR-related technologies in the name of eliminating disability without considering context.


  1. Blog:  Wordsworth, R. May 22, 2015. What Games Can Tell Us About Our Cyborg Future. Link
  2. Blog: Estreich, G. Sept 4, 2015. The Rhetorical Two-Step: Steven Pinker, CRISPR and Disability. Biopolitical Times. Link
  3. Documentary Film: Brashear, R (Director/ Producer). 2013. Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. Making Change Media (Producer). New Day Films. (6:51 min Trailer) Link
  4. Video: ESPN2. Jan 23, 2012. Outside the Lines. The Stem Cell Treatment Debate.  10 minutes video, and 10 minutes panel with Arthur Kaplan ( bioethicist), sports star, and physician who performed stem cell transplant. (20 min).  Link
  5. Documentary Film: Finitzo, M. (Producer and Director). 2007. Terra Incognita: Mapping Stem Cell Research. Kartemquin Films. (4:15 min trailer) Link
  6. Documentary Film: Letendre, B.(Director and Producer). 2012. Disability Rights Activist Movement Documentary.(7:28 min)  Link
  7. Documentary Film: Brosh, E. (Director and Producer). 2015. Restoration. Link
  8. Video: 2014. Reform and Closings of Institutions. Video of Olmstead from YouTube. Twin Cities Public Television “Case Studies” ( 4:51 min) Link
  9. Essay: Anonymous. 2009. What is Health? The Ability to Adapt. The Lancet.  373 (9666):781. Link
  10. Essay: Linton, S. 1998. Reassigning meaning.  In  Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York University Press Disability History Museum. Link
  11. Timeline: New York State Timeline Exhibit. Museum of disABILITY History. Link
  12. Textbook Chapter: Garland, M. and Stull, J. Module 9: Public Health and Health Systems Reform: Access Priority Setting and Allocation of Resources.  In Ethics and Public Health. Model Curriculum. Editors Bruce Jennings, Jeffrey Kahn, Anna Mastroianni, and Lisa Parker.   241-251. Link
  13. Article: Shakespeare, T. & Watson, N. 2002.The social model of disability: An outdated ideology. Research in Social Science and Disability. 2:9-28. Link