Adrienne Asch, 1947-2013

We are very sorry to hear of the death of Dr. Adrienne Asch, the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at Yeshiva University and professor of epidemiology and population health and family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Adrienne Asch’s Ph.D. was in Social Psychology, and those of us in Philosophy who relied on her excellent work in reproductive choice and disability studies further appreciate the extent to which her B.A. in Philosophy from Swarthmore in 1969 seemed to influence her ethical and critical thinking throughout her career.

At Feminist Philosophers it is customary to mention one’s connection to a particular work of a philosopher for which one writes a notice of death.  I am not an expert, so I will content myself with noting that just today, I referred my students of utilitarian thinking to Adrienne Asch’s arguments in “Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy:”

Professionals should reexamine negative assumptions about the quality of life with prenatally detectable impairments and should reform clinical practice and public policy to improve informed decision making and genuine reproductive choice. Current data on children and families affected by disabilities indicate that disability does not preclude a satisfying life. Many problems attributed to the existence of a disability actually stem from inadequate social arrangements that public health professionals should work to change. This article assumes a pro-choice perspective but suggests that unreflective uses of prenatal testing could diminish, rather than expand, women’s choices. This critique challenges the view of disability that lies behind the social endorsement of such testing and the conviction that women will or should end their pregnancies if they discover that the fetus has a disabling trait.


4 thoughts on “Adrienne Asch, 1947-2013

  1. I was one of Adrienne’s friends from high school in Ramsey, NJ, and kept in touch through the years. My last outing with Adrienne was to see the play, “Red.” As part of my sabbatical project, I am organizing a conference, “Blindness: Philosophy, Therapy, and Music,” to celebrate Adrienne’s life and work. The conference will be organized in the open, and will aim to be a model of access, integration, and understanding, from a feminist point of view. If you knew Adrienne in any capacity or have an interest in her work, please let me know what sort of memorial you would like to see; I will make it happen. Thank you.

    This notice is being posted exclusively to Feminist Philosophers since it is from you that I first learned of my dear friend’s death. Since Adrienne’s passing, my mother, my brother, and another member of my high school class, all of whom knew and respected Adrienne, have died. Please float the idea of this memorial conference wherever you think Adrienne’s work might be known. Using both face to face personalist communication and modern technology, we have the potential to change the world. I am open as to date, but favor the third Thursday in November, which is the UNESCO World Day of Philosophy.

    David White
    St. John Fisher College
    Rochester, NY

  2. David, this is such an important comment that I shall move it to a new post.

Comments are closed.