Annual Sowerby Lecture — All Welcome
26 November 2015 - 18:30-20:00
“If I had to live like you, I think I’d kill myself”: Explaining the Disability Paradox
Lecture: Havi Carel, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol
Comment: Brian Hurwitz, Professor of Medicine and the Arts, King’s College London
(See this event also on Facebook)
The ‘disability paradox’ identifies a significant difference in how ill and disabled people rate their wellbeing, compared with healthy people asked to imagine how happy they would be if they were unwell. Ill and disabled people’s wellbeing rating is only slightly lower than that of healthy people. However, healthy people rate their hypothetical wellbeing as much lower when asked to imagine themselves as ‘hypothetical patients’. There are three possible explanations: either patients misreport their wellbeing due to adaptation, or healthy people mis-imagine ill-health, or both.
In this paper I examine these explanations and suggest that it is healthy people who misimagine ill-health. I also claim that it is impossible to claim that ill people are misreporting their wellbeing due to adaptaion without this having general consequences for any subjective wellbeing measurements. I also claim that the phenomenon of adaptation to illness raises important questions for health economics, and that the psycho-social mechanisms involved in adaptation can be illuminated by a phenomenological analysis.