Thoughts on the Bioethics of Estranged Biological Kin
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012
© by Hypatia, Inc.
Volume 28, Issue 1, pages 32–48, February 2013
How to Cite
Cassidy, L. (2013), Thoughts on the Bioethics of Estranged Biological Kin. Hypatia, 28: 32–48. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01264.x
- Issue published online: 31 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 17 MAR 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 18 FEB 2011
- Manuscript Received: 15 MAR 2010
This paper considers the bioethics of estranged biological kin, who are biologically related people not in contact with one another (due to adoption, abandonment, or other long-term estrangement). Specifically, I am interested in what is owed to estranged biological kin in the event of medical need. A survey of current bioethics demonstrates that most analyses are not prepared to reckon with the complications of having or being estranged biological kin. For example, adoptees might wonder if a lack of contact with biological kin could someday affect their medical care (or affect the medical care of their biological relatives).
Estranged biological kin, such as adoptees, present us with a chance to think about human connection. After sketching several organ-donation and adoption tropes, I argue that a feminist analysis of vulnerability and dependency is helpful for understanding the confusing ties of estranged biological kin. I conclude by proposing a medical registry that would put adoptees and others in touch with their estranged biological kin on a medically as-needed basis.