Friday, July 17, 2009

Contingent on walking?

Yesterday I received an email from a Christian acquaintance with an attachment to a story about a dog born with two missing legs and a front leg that had to be amputated. It said

"He could, of course, not walk. Even his mother did not want him."

It spoke of the dog's owner's efforts to teach the animal how to walk on his two back legs and how she just would not give up. Included were photos of this dog parading about. I've included one photo above, showing the dog walking on his two hind legs behind his owner on a sidewalk.

Interestingly enough, this was referred to as a piece about faith. I kept thinking as I went through pictures of the dog walking in front of classrooms, etc. about how we apply the word faith to disability.

Far too often I've seen people with disabilities suffer because someone linked a lack of faith to an inability to walk, etc. There are those who believe - and even say- that if you have enough faith, you wouldn't be disabled.

This is spiritual abuse and an affront on so many levels to those living with disabilities. It judges not only our faith, but implies that our quality of life is contingent on things such as walking. Anyone who says they believe all humans are created equal and deserve dignity is contradicting himself or herself by saying this.

Why is this important? Because these assumptions are dangerous. There are people like Peter Singer who openly espouse rationing health care to people with disabilities and others on the basis that there is a lesser value to their quality of life. In this article, the author quotes the section about quadriplegics :

If we return to the hypothetical assumption that a year with quadriplegia is valued at only half as much as a year without it, then a treatment that extends the lives of people without disabilities will be seen as providing twice the value of one that extends, for a similar period, the lives of quadriplegics," he writes.

The value of a life. My life. Your life.

When there isn't enough of a resource, concepts like rationing get applied. Withholding medical care or resources from certain groups of people is seen as a utilitarian way to control costs for the general good, morals be damned. And God help you if you fall into a class where you are one of those to whom it's rationed.

Oh no- I will not mince words when it comes to a public piece in the NY Times challenging my quality of life and the lives of my nearest and dearest friends who are also quadriplegics. It is summer. Many of them are holding barbeques with their families, wives, husbands, sons and daughters. Our lives are not as different as some would make them out to be.

Singer appears to make arguments on behalf of disability advocates and then concludes that those arguments paint disability advocates into a corner. This is a debatable position, whether he believes that or not. He also uses Christopher Reeve as proof- since it was clear he wanted to walk again- that not walking gives one a lower quality of life. Also debatable.

Not walking does not give one's life less value.

We need to be careful about all of our underlying beliefs and assumptions, particularly beliefs that life only has value when one is able-bodied. Rationing health care "would put bioethicists of the ilk of Peter Singer in charge of who received or did not receive wanted care. If that doesn't turn you off the rationing agenda, what will?" asks Wesley Smith.


Peter Singer in the NY Times: Disabled Lives Worth Less Hypothetically

The 1/2 Compromise and Health Care

Being a Wally about QALYS

Shorter Peter Singer: Being Disabled Sucks, or How to Wallow in Ablism


FridaWrites said...

I'm going to have to calm down before I finish reading the NYT article, but my husband asked, "So is Singer going to have Kevorkian on speed dial when he gets disabled?"

FridaWrites said...

Wonder why the NYT didn't allow comments on this article...

Wheelie Catholic said...

Frida- hmm wonder if they had comments open at any point?