Elizabeth Ben-Ishai

Ben-Ishai, E. (2012). Responding to vulnerability: The case of injection drug use. International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 5(2), 39-63.

Abstract: This article examines the case of Insite, North America’s only supervised injection facility, to consider the relationship between dependence, relational autonomy, and vulnerability. At state-funded Insite, users inject illicit drugs under medical supervision. By conceiving of Insite as a health-care facility and addiction as disease, advocates evoke a shared sense of vulnerability among the nonusing public and users, garnering considerable support for the site. Through Insite, the state responds to vulnerability by reshaping the meaning of dependence and conferring recognition upon users, in turn fostering users’ autonomy. However, the medicalized discourse surrounding Insite may obscure drug users’ vulnerabilities emerging not from “disease,” but from stigma and criminalization. Vulnerability analysis must emphasize not merely a naturalized conception of vulnerability, but the socially constructed nature of human beings’ experiences of vulnerability.

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