Free Essay: Ethical Debates Regarding Treatment of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Published: 2022-09-05
Free Essay: Ethical Debates Regarding Treatment of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Discrimination Ethics
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 912 words
8 min read

Sometimes people with disabilities are mistreated because of their abnormal conditions. The story of Petey, a child born with cerebral palsy evokes ethical debates regarding his treatment and people's behaviour towards individuals with developmental disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was signed into law in 1990 protects people with disabilities from all acts of discrimination which could occur at the workplace, in public life or any other place (What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?), n.d). Petey was occasionally mistreated by nurses and friends because he was considered physically disabled and mentally retarded. This paper discusses the ethical issues involved in the treatment of Petey and the impact of Petey's disability on his life.

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Ethical Concerns

The most significant moral concern arose when Petey was misdiagnosed as mentally retarded. This led to doctors and other people labelling Petey as an idiot even when he was very young. Doctors believed that Petey could receive the best care if he were taken to a mental health institution. However, Petey's condition did not improve because at the mental institution, Petey spends more time with mentally disabled children like his friend Calvin. Children need to be exposed to learning opportunities and to be treated with kindness and love. This was not done to Petey, and it was ethically wrong to deny him a chance to learn and enjoy life with other normal children.

Person First Language

Petey's disability was sometimes put first in some illustrations of Petey as a person. For instance, Petey is labelled as the disabled boy from Montana. Following the person first language prescription, it could be better to say that Petey was a boy from Montana who was physically disabled. This statement recognizes Petey's dignity before mentioning his physical condition.

Accessibilities Concerns

Considering that Petey was physically disabled, professionals and people with basic skills in caring for children with special needs should have taken care of Petey. Also, caregivers should work in collaboration to ensure that Petey enjoys life like other children. Feeding specialists are expected to help Petey feed without much struggle. Facilities like toilets should be made in such a way that Petey would access them without problems. Also, service providers should also collaborate with Petey parents to teach him how to do some basic chores independently. This idea can help raise the self-esteem of a person with a developmental disability. Another specialist like neurologists and psychologists can be added to the team providing care and assisting Petey to develop independence and coping with the condition.

How IDEA, ADA, and Other Laws Could Have Protected PeteySeveral federal laws protect people with disabilities in the US. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are among the important laws that protect people with disabilities. The ADA would have safeguarded Petey from any form of discrimination while at the mental health institution where nurses verbally abused him. Moreover, the IDEA provides free early intervention and special education services for children with disabilities (Lipkin & Okamoto, 2015). This provision would have prevented nurses from acting lazily when taking care of Petey. Also, Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) would be developed for Petey as a requirement by the 1DEA.

Assistive Technology

People with disabilities require assistive technology to communicate, to travel and to perform other important tasks with much comfort. Crutches, walkers and other prosthetic devices could have been provided to help Petey enhance his mobility. Voice recognition devices and screen readers could improve Petey's ability to communicate. High-performance wheelchairs could also help people with disabilities to engage in some indoor sports activities. The mental facility where Petey was residing should have been designed with automatic door openers and wide doorways.

Cultural Difference

Cultural perceptions regarding people with disabilities have significantly improved since the Petey story was created. Today, people show compassion and care to people with disabilities unlike the early 20th century when children with developmental disabilities like Petey used to be segregated. According to Brignell (2010), it was common for disabled people to be put under institutional care in the 20th century because the American society believed that this practice was good. However, people with disabilities suffered from emotional distress because they felt segregated and sometimes nurses abused them as it happened for Petey. Today, families have positive perspectives regarding the treatment of children with disabilities. Parents can learn how to care for their children with disabilities and Companies have designed assistive technology devices to help people with disabilities adapt and enjoy life.


The story of Petey gives an inspiring lesson to people in the society regarding the treatment and care for people with disabilities. The story explains how people suffer in our society because we neglect them because of their disabilities. People should be assisted to live their independent lives. Laws have been put in place to protect people with disabilities from any form of mistreatment and discrimination. It is common to find people with disabilities playing and working in offices because there is no more segregation.


Brignell, V. (2010). When the disabled were segregated. Newstatesman America. Retrieved on October 3rd, 2018, from

Lipkin, P. H., & Okamoto, J. (2015). The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for Children With Special Educational Needs. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Mikaelsen, B. (1998). Petey. New York: Hyperion.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? (n.d.). The ADA. Retrieved on October 3, 2018, from

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